Boris Johnson lost his voice, then his backdrop collapsed. Next comes the P45, and this one won't be from a prankster

It took Theresa May more than a year to suffer a parliamentary defeat and a collapsing backdrop. Johnson’s managed both in a week 

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Thursday 05 September 2019 20:52
Boris Johnson stumbles as he fails to recall a police caution

If I may be permitted to begin with a vanishingly rare bit of gonzo sketch writing, towards the end of Boris Johnson’s question and answer session, at the end of Boris Johnson’s speech at a police training centre in Yorkshire, which ended at least an hour and a half after 32 trainee police officers had been ordered to form up behind it, I raised my hand.

The question I was hoping to ask was, roughly, thus: “Prime minister, it’s your first proper week in the job. You have lost four parliamentary votes. You have chucked Ken Clarke out of the Conservative Party. Your brother has resigned. You have failed to get a general election and you can’t get Britain out of the European Union. Did you ever imagine it would go this badly?”

At this point, the junior copper standing immediately behind him collapsed. Her colleagues appeared to wish to give medical assistance, but it was not clear if that was the right thing to do. They were only four weeks into the job, after all, the prime minister was here, and they were live on television. Instead, the one to the collapsed one’s right just stared skyward and looked as if she might cry.

The prime minister turned around and let out a short groan. Euuurgh. It happened to be the precise same noise that had exited his gob just two days previously, when he was standing at the despatch box of the House of Commons, and he watched his tiny parliamentary majority vanish directly in front of his eyes.

(Phillip Lee defected to the Lib Dems, in case you don’t recall. It turned out not to be that big a deal in the end, as Johnson sacked 21 other Conservative MPs a few hours later anyway).

The fainter, frankly, came from nowhere. All through the speech, the ranks of journalists had their eye on a different young woman, three to the right. She had been standing waiting for so long in the late afternoon sunshine, that her encrimsoning cheek had already required medical attention from a senior officer. By the time the prime minister drew to a close, it was puce. Before the incident occurred, it’s fair to say she was expected to be the day’s only medical casualty.

The signs are not good. The previous Tory prime minister managed almost a year and half in the job before suffering her first collapsing backdrop. Johnson is barely into week five. In other portents, he lost his voice as well. For around 30 mad seconds, he tried to recite the words to “the caution”.

You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence – and so on. It remains unclear why he thought reciting this was a good idea, not merely because he clearly didn’t have a clue what the words are (a rarity among those in his profession), but chiefly because this was an audience of adults, and he was not in a primary school.

Behind him, 32 faces went simultaneously red. Mercifully, most went back again.

In other déjà vu news, there are already rumours that parliamentary colleagues are preparing the P45, and this one won’t be a prank.

It remains unclear whether these young men and women are officially part of the 20,000 new police officers Johnson is promising to create. And so it may not strictly be true to say it’s already one down, 19,999 to go.

His other major pledge is 20 hospital upgrades and £34bn for the NHS. At this rate of attrition, one’s going to be needed just to deal with the other.

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