It’s been another “exciting” stretch for Boris Johnson’s government — but then Boris Johnson’s government doesn’t “do” boring, dependable, or reliable. That’s not the deal. Johnson was elected on the understanding that he would turn British politics into a massive plot device for the putative TV show in his head, wherein everything and everyone — mistresses, wives, friends, children, colleagues, threatening to have a journalist beaten up, Garden Bridges, Irish Sea Bridges, bullying ministers, Owen Paterson, PPE, suitcases of wine, gold wallpaper, airlifted Afghan cats and dogs, Ukrainian visas — are just topics thrown at him to improv excuses about for ten minutes before the next thing comes along; because that appears to be his primary psychological kink. Getting away with stuff by the skin of his teeth.
He runs his life like it’s basically Whose Line Is It Anyway? in 1989 and he’s waiting for Clive Anderson to throw him another prop. It’s all so unnecessarily exhausting. As is so often the case, I simply marvel at another powerful bullshitter spending so much more time and effort trying to cover up his mistakes than it would have taken to have just simply. Done. The. Job. Properly.
On a recent episode of Parliamentary Chaos Improv, it was widely suggested that the controversial announcement of the government’s — to be brisk — demented new refugee program had been timed to, as the Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi put it, work as a “desperate distraction attempt from [the government’s] endless list of failures”, with Priti Patel providing “cover” for Johnson, even as the toxic fallout from Partygate rages on, the economy tanks and local elections loom.
Johnson was elected on the understanding that he would turn British politics into a massive plot device for the putative TV show in his head.
The “sending refugees to Rwanda” scheme is fascinating, as it’s given Johnson yet another person to improv excuses to: in this case, the big one. God. Or at least, God as represented by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Justin Welby, who called the Rwanda idea “opposite [to] the nature of God”.
Amazingly, we live in a world where Johnson has now decided to debate the Archbishop of Canterbury’s judgments on morality. Johnson has “hit back” at Welby’s pronouncement — allegedly telling a behind-closed-doors meeting of Tory MPs that Welby “should be condemning Vladimir Putin, instead”.
I guess it figures that a man who still doesn’t seem to know what his own job entails — attending Cobra meetings, not turning Downing Street into late-period Studio 54 — doesn’t understand what Welby’s job is. He’s the Archbishop of Canterbury, dude. To quote the Eddie Izzard routine, religion is very much based on people saying, “Only do good things, never do bad things.” And when even Theresa May is condemning your policy as unworkable, you’ve got to figure Welby — and, by extension, God — might have a point.
But still he improvs on — the first sitting prime minister to be fined for breaking the law, lecturing the Archbishop of Canterbury on morality. If it were a deeply parodic three-minute sketch by John Sessions at the height of his powers, on late-night Channel 4, it would be classic TV. As the working method of the most powerful man in the country — even now direct debiting his $62 penalty for his lockdown birthday party — it’s part of a very different show: Whose Fine Is It Anyway?
Caitlin Moran is a journalist and the author of More than a Woman, How to Build a Girl, and Moranthology