Unhomogenised, Unpasteurised Johnson
People often talk of the ‘optics’ now in political terms. But the audio wasn’t too tricky either for the Prime Minister on his visit to Scotland. Boris Johnson’s arrogance – or that of his advisers – backfired spectacularly today as crowds with the only opportunity to interact with the PM made their contempt abundantly clear as he arrived at Bute House. What was intended was an early show of strength became a humiliation, with the Prime Minister scuttling out the back door to avoid another round of abuse.
The need to project power is essential for political leaders, especially ones with a fragile sense of their own importance.
Today’s footage may stand next to Kinnock falling over on the beach, David Steel in David Owen’s pocket or Kennedy’s “second hand car salesman” comment about Nixon. These things matter.
Johnson’s trip north was a gaff-packed disaster in which he: revealed he didn’t know how many independence referendums there’d been, cobbled together a totally unconvincing pact with Ruth Davidson, then backed her ‘bid to be FM’, made some crass Proclaimers reference and hid in a submarine at Faslane.
Once again a Conservative leader avoided any public engagements.
Now we see why.
After a protest in Glasgow in the morning Johnson was welcomed to the capital with shouts of “You lying arsehole”.
Asked why he’d chosen to steer clear of the public he blurted:
“Ohhh … nonsense! Who was there at Aberdeen airport? Who was there at Aberdeen airport (in May) where I met all sorts of … in a completely unhomogenised, unpasteurised, absolutely … I met all sorts of members of the public.”
When it was pointed out that it was a private event at Aberdeen he said: “Ah right in that case I’m very sorry. But you would have seen only wholly genuine and uncontrived non-Potemkin scenes, in which I was warmly received by a hen party and many others.”
This sort of idiot savant act won’t work in Scotland, or I suspect other parts of the UK. And the tone has changed.
This is partly a gender thing, but its also a reflection of the makeup of the new Cabinet, the most hard-right politicians gathered in No 10 for many a year, and also the contemptuous nature of Johnson’s pronouncements about Scotland. These can’t be washed away by the sprinkling of some cash.
The problem with protected power is it’s inability to read the room. The cumulative impact of sustained privilege, fawning and sycophancy is disconnect. That’s what we saw on Charlotte Square today.
Recent polling suggest that if Johnson calls a general election there will be a bloodbath in Scotland, and as Kenny Farquharson asked: “If Boris Johnson calls a general election to seek a mandate for a no-deal Brexit, how can Ruth Davidson with any credibility call on Scots to vote Tory?”
Now it may be that the Johnson team doesn’t care about Scotland, as it doesn’t really care about Northern Ireland. Maybe the “optic and audio” of today’s car-crash media event will play well in the Shires. Maybe that’s the point? Who knows? But you get the impression that rather than this being a clever manipulation it’s just the very start of complete chaos, the reign of an Etonian boy who has risen through the ranks of sustained mediocrity to herald Britain to its end times. There’s no better man for the job. Boris, you’re welcome.