Tag Archives: boris johnson

Lib Dems demand full statutory inquiry into Prime Minister’s flat refurbishment

Boris Johnson continues to battle his way through the maelstrom of criticism over government partying while most of the rest of the country obeyed the social distancing rules at the cost of a happy Christmas. But as so often happens when one skeleton is found in the closet, another is found under the floorboards.

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain today called for an independent public inquiry into the refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s flat, after new leaked messages show the PM knew more than previously alleged.

The party believes an independent, statutory public inquiry is needed to get to the bottom of the allegations. The inquiry would have the power to summon witnesses and require them to give evidence under oath, including current and former government ministers and officials, and demand the disclosure of any relevant official documents and communications.

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World Review: Oil, vigilantism in America, refugees, Swedish politics and Omicron

Prepare for an oil price war in 2022. The combatants are OPEC and a consortium of top energy consuming countries including the US, China, UK, Japan, India and South Korea. All of these countries have built up huge strategic oil reserves in case of emergency such as war or another 1973-style OPEC oil embargo. The US has the largest reserves with 638 million barrels tucked away in storage facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The last two times America’s oil reserves were used was after Hurricane Katrina and during the Gulf War. Biden is depleting them to combat the energy shortage which has pushed up prices to $81 a barrel and is threatening the US and world economic recovery from the pandemic.

The OPEC countries (and Russia), however, like the high prices and they are used to controlling the market to suit their needs by raising and lowering production. They fear that Biden’s move on economic rather than security grounds threatens their historic stranglehold on the market. An OPEC summit is planned for 2 December. The oil ministers were planning to announce a 100 million barrel increase in production from January; not enough to substantially reduce prices, but possibly enough to stabilise them. That is expected to be off next week’s agenda. President Biden also has internal problems in the form of the Republicans who advocate increasing domestic oil production and reinstating projects such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline to reduce reliance foreign sources. But that, of course, runs afoul of climate change promises.

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Johnson twitters while migrants drown in the Channel

How did it come this? Tens of migrants drowning in the Channel. There is a sense of inhumanity about current events. A sense of unreality. A sense that the horrors of humanity at its worst is lapping up on the shores of the Channel. Alive. But often dead.

There is a sense of unreality about our government’s response. And that of the French leadership.

This is people’s lives. People escaping the horrors of conflict and political suppression. People who want their children to go to school. People who want to set up thriving businesses. People who want to pay their way.

Instead, some of them drown. Their dreams of a better life destroyed by exploitation of modern day smugglers. Not smuggling contraband but smuggling people. There are many echoes of this from our colonial past but this a current emergency, not something you can look up in the index of a history book.

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World Review: COP26, sleaze, Africa at war and Covid

COP26 negotiators have as of this writing (Friday) entered the final stages of a draft agreement. It’s not great news for Planet Earth. So far, the gathered pledges will reduce temperature rises from the current 2.5 degree level to 2.4 degrees centigrade—well short of the 1.5 degree limit which climatologists say is the maximum the planet can bear to avoid worldwide environmental disaster. There are, however, some streaks of silver in this dark cloud. One is that the negotiators have agreed to meet in Egypt next year in a bid to make further progress. Originally it was going be another five year gap. There has also been agreement to stop deforestation. Coal has for the first time been singled for as a main polluter and many countries have promised to end its production and use. Although the US and China, the two biggest users, are dragging their feet.

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Johnson sucked into a black hole after Paterson resigns

You can’t lose more credibility than this. Boris Johnson, distracted no doubt by glad handing world leaders at COP26 and his slap up dining with Telegraph grandees at the Garrick, arrived back at No 10 to find that he was swirling towards the black hole of political failure. His attempt to protect North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson from allegations of lobbying on behalf of his food industry paymasters failed. Big time.

Jacob Rees Mogg yesterday cancelled the review of loyal Tory MPs had voted for just hours before. Paterson, back on the hook and facing suspension, resigned.

Dominic Cummings once described Boris Johnson as “a shopping trolley smashing from one side of the aisle to the other”. It is a cruel irony that Owen Paterson was shopping in a supermarket when he learnt that the wheels had come off his political career.

Boris Johnson, who had hoped that COP26 would be his finest hour, has perhaps made the biggest mistake of his political career and even his fellow Tories are raging.

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How to beat Johnson’s government on economics

Might election campaigns have the foundations of attractive ideas, emotional appeal and a plausible previous record?

This government has/had strong emotional appeal, especially through its leader. Its ideas have the benefit of being based on the currently dominant economic theory of Neo-liberalism. It is supported, directly and indirectly by the mainstream media which, mostly, bolsters the performance of HM Government.

Opposition parties lack the theatrical style of Mr. Johnson. Therefore attack his language techniques. Ratios of jokes to facts? Ditto facts to inaccuracies. Ditto future tenses to past tenses. Which speech has the most metaphors etc.?

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Did Boris Johnson just suggest that our Jamie Stone should be fired into space?

Maturity has never really been Boris Johnson’s strong point.

And so it was today when Jamie Stone used a question to the Prime Minister to highlight the positive development  this week which brings space port in North West Scotland a step closer:

As the BBC reports, a major obstacle was cleared:

A Scottish Land Court judge has approved a change of use of an area of croft land near Tongue in Sutherland for the building of the facility.

The land around the rockets hangar and launch pad must remain available to crofters for agricultural use.

The ruling means the first rockets carrying small satellites could launch from Space Hub Sutherland from next year.

So Jamie was joyful about this when he asked the PM if he’d come to the first launch. Boris then replied that Jamie would make a suitable payload :

But did he really mean Jamie?

Hansard, which is usually pretty accurate, says at the time of writing that Boris Johnson replied to Jamie thus:

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind invitation. I look forward to taking it up. What we need is a suitable payload to send into space, and I think the hon. Gentleman would do very well.

But if you watch the video, what he actually said was “the Gentleman Opposite” which could refer to Keir Starmer.

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Sunak and Johnson in “Barnard Castle on steroids” escape from self-isolation

You couldn’t make it up. It’s like reading the cover of Private Eye. Health secretary Sajid Javid gets a positive Covid-19 result. If the Prime Minister and Chancellor, who met with him on Friday,  were ordinary mortals, they would have been banished into the self-isolation wilderness for 10 days.

But those at the heart of government live more privileged lives. Driving to Barnard’s Castle to test eyesight. Sneaking a clinch with a mistress, though forgetting to smile for the CCTV. And now Johnson and Sunak, who must not to be confused with the comedy act Laurel and Hardy no matter how tempting that is, are on a trial. They are piloting a stop at work with Covid scheme and testing daily.

 

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Is Boris Johnson gambling on tonight’s Euro final to boost herd immunity?

Crowding together. Shouting. Singing. Welcome to the excitement of football. As England and Italy prepare for the Euro final, scientists are concerned that football is helping drive up Covid-19 infection rates by allowing potentially super spreader events such as the finals at Wembley and Wimbledon. It is predicted that seven million pints will be served during the Euro final tonight in pubs across the land. Health secretary Sajid Javid has suggested we might be heading towards 100,000 new cases a day. Did he take sporting events into account?

It’s coming home but could coronavirus also be coming home with the fans? Maybe Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid want that. Could the Euro final be a booster jab that gets us closer to herd immunity.

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Towards a one-party culture in the media

We should all be concerned that not only is this a populist government, but they are using Boris to ensure that the media sees every event from their point of view, thus brainwashing people into thinking that any criticism is not to be taken seriously. We have long complained about lack of attention to the Lib-Dem leader, but we should be concerned about the lack of attention to the Labour leader too. Conservatives are intent on squeezing any challenge to the margins, including a diminishing of the independence of the BBC and the case of Martin Bashir and Lord Hall gives them the ammunition they need.

We must learn from what happened over Brexit when, for over a decade, the Brexiteers worked hard at getting more of the public on their side. We assumed that they so distorted the truth that people would see through them, but they did not, mainly because they spoke to people’s basic emotions.

We have seen the bias in comments about Dominic Cummings’ appearance before the select committee on 27th May, slanting it to the first Covid wave and Dominic’s own lack of credibility, rather than focussing properly on what actually happened, especially in subsequent events.  Before that ‘interview’ I wrote a letter to my local paper and it was published on 26th May:

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Ed and Tim angry at “callous” statement by PM

Both Ed Davey and Tim Farron have been quick to show their anger about the reported “Let the bodies pile high” remark by PM Johnson:

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Immoral – Conservative MPs are tarnished by association with PM Johnson

Roger Roberts – Lord Roberts of Llandudno – has written a letter to his MP, Robin Millar, as follows:

Dear Robin,

Like many other constituents, especially Christian church members I am deeply disappointed in this government and this prime minister. Whether this attitude is reflected in the coming elections is of little importance, so much of the moral lead necessary in a prime minister cannot be found in Mr Johnson. Your own character is tarnished by association with him. I would welcome a meeting and discussion with you.

Yours faithfully,
ROGER – Lord Roberts of Llandudno

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The Tragic loss of 100,000 lives to Covid

According to official figures, the UK became the first country in Europe to record (very unfortunately) 100,000 coronavirus-related deaths. Currently, the UK has the fifth-highest number of deaths globally, after the US, Brazil, India and Mexico (as a percentage of Covid deaths to population, the UK percentage is higher than that of the US).

To put this into perspective, the 100,000 deaths registered are higher than the civilian death toll during all of World War II.

“I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost and, of course, as Prime Minister, I take full responsibility for everything that the government has done,” said Boris Johnson.

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Families of those of who have died from Covid-19 deserve answers – Ed Davey

Ed Davey has responded to Boris Johnson’s refusal to lay out a timeline for a public inquiry into his Government’s response to the coronavirus crisis:

Boris Johnson says there will come a time to learn the lessons of the pandemic, but the public will rightly ask, if not now, then when? The best time to learn lessons and prevent the most deaths is today.

The Prime Minister can’t tell us exactly when schools will return safely, can’t tell us when most of the country will be offered a vaccine and can’t tell us when the current lockdown will end.

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How fragile is our democracy?

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“Democracy is precious.  Democracy is fragile.” – Joe Biden reminded us in his inauguration speech. The ceremony was a cheering celebration of constitutional democracy, with the three branches of the federal government interacting to mark the change of administration.

British democracy remains fragile, without much prospect of strengthening its institutions or healing its divisions before the 2024 election.  Our prime minister wields executive ‘prerogative’ powers inherited from the Tudor and Stuart monarchies.  The queen appointed Boris Johnson prime minister, a day before Parliament rose for its summer recess.  He then attempted to prevent Parliament from sitting for an extended period, to allow himself to govern without scrutiny.  And, of course, he, many of his MPs and the right-wing press labelled the Supreme Court ‘the enemy of the people’ for ruling that he lacked the prerogative authority to do so.

The Vote Leave campaign fought the 2016 referendum with the cry of restoring parliamentary sovereignty.  Johnson scarcely conceals his contempt for Parliament and its scrutiny: whipping his backbenchers to support whatever ministers propose, pushing through bills which allow ministers to fill in the details later (under what are called ‘Henry VIII powers’), and packing friends, relations and donors into the Lords.  Ministers insist that the 43.5% vote they received last year represented ‘the will of the people’. Local government continues to be weakened, starved of funds, bypassed by contracts given to consultancies and outsourcing companies.  No wonder so many voters are disillusioned and alienated from conventional politics.  Ministers are also trying to bully the Electoral Commission, and to raise spending limits for campaigns to favour their well-funded party.

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EU Trade Deal: there are no good options left

European and British flags.

I hate 13th December. I really, really do.

On this day in 1984, my Grandma died, way too soon, at the age of 64. I still miss her.

And last year, in the early hours, any hope of avoiding Brexit evaporated as Boris Johnson got a majority that could have enabled him to govern with more wisdom and flexibility from the constraints of the reckless extremes of his party. He chose not to take that chance.

On top of it all, we lost Jo. I’m still not over that. She remains one of the most exceptionally talented people I have ever known. She’s proof that the best people don’t always win in politics.

An election once Jo had had the time to establish herself would, I suspect, have had a very different result.

We are where we are though. And it isn’t fun. 2020 has not excelled itself. A couple of bright spots – the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, to be confirmed by the Electoral College tomorrow, the development of effective vaccines against Covid have not lifted the gloom by much.

Now the dreaded 13th December is the day we enter the final stage of the Brexit drama.

Whatever emerges from the EU negotiations over the next hours is going to be far from good. We’re looking at a catastrophic no deal or a damaging fig leaf of a deal that will hurt our businesses and cost people their jobs and homes. Let’s be clear. The Government is choosing this path. It had better options open to it. When we were gripped in the first wave of Covid, they could have done the responsible thing and requested an extension to the transition period. We’d have voted for it, so would the SNP. Labour probably would and the EU would almost certainly have granted it. The more excitable ERG types on the Conservative benches would have made a lot of noise, but we would have bought ourselves some time and stability.

I’ve always thought that the Brexit agenda was mostly about turning our economy into a low regulation, rights-free zone. This is why they are so resistant to any future improvements in things like environmental standards or workers’ rights. They dress it up as sovereignty, but it’s an oligarch’s charter really.

They manipulated people’s feeling of powerlessness with false promises of taking back control. The truth is that those people at the sharp end, the lowest paid and most vulnerable, will have less control than they had before.

There should be no problem with accepting the EU’s reasonable level playing field requirement in the trade deal. I doubt that there will be any major changes within the next few years anyway. These things take time to get through and would take even longer to actually come into force. If there were any changes, we could debate them and decide whether to accept them or take the consequences.

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Observations of an expat: Looking foolish

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Everyone hates to look foolish. To avoid this hugely embarrassing peril they will often go to great lengths ranging from self-deception to conspiracy theories to lies.

And the greater the personal investment in an untenable position the more difficult it is for the investor to change direction and face the chorus of “I told you so’s.”

Two of the most prominent examples of this foolishness are Brexit and Donald Trump. Millions of intelligent Americans have invested their political heart and soul in the Cult of Trump. They cannot comprehend the possibility of his losing the November presidential election. Therefore, their leader must be the victim of a massive fraud.

The numerous election officials – Republican and Democrat – who consistently maintain that the vote was the fairest in American history are evil participants in a Deep State conspiracy. They are in an unholy league with the courts that have repeatedly dismissed the Trump campaign claims of election chicanery.

The fact-filled brick wall that Trump supporters have bumped up against has led some of them to call for dangerously extreme measures. Pardoned former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has, for instance, called on President Trump to suspend the constitution, cancel the election result, declare martial law and then use the military to oversee fresh elections.

Britain’s Brexiteers are faring equally badly, although in a different way.

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Jo was right about Boris

It is self-evident we have a calamitous Prime Minister; we spelt out the warning ourselves.  Johnson presides over a cabinet of mediocre yes-men not selected for ability, but for their Brexit purity and for their low risk in upstaging Johnson with an unexpected whiff of competency.  The Tory conference is a time to take stock. Even amongst Conservative members there are signs of queasiness: in a recent ConservativeHome sounding of party members, only Gavin Williamson outflanks Johnson for dissatisfaction.

Less than 10 months ago Jo Swinson clearly upbraided Johnson for having ‘dragged the office of Prime Minister through the mud’. Johnson has not only continued to besmirch his office but, by disregarding the rule of law, has shredded the UK’s standing around the world.  The UK can no longer criticise breaches of international law without inviting an inevitable riposte.

‘Johnson is not fit to be Prime Minister’ Jo continued, ‘not just because he doesn’t care, not just because he lies but because also he is complicit in stoking division and fear and in our communities.  Johnson has no shame when it comes to the language he uses about race’.  She was spot on; for manifold reasons Johnson is unfit for his role. Shame seems a sentiment unknown to Johnson, moreover he is indolent, unable to master his brief, expecting the general public to know what is asked of them better than he does himself.

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Reflections on the Internal Market Bill and Boris Johnson’s cooking skills

The genesis of the “law breaking” part of the Internal Market Bill can be traced back to Theresa May’s actions as PM. The following words were said to Theresa May at the time by Sir Ivan Rogers, former British Ambassador to the EU. He reported his statement to her to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons:

You have made three commitments in good faith to different audiences, but they are not really compatible with each other.

You have said to the Irish… under no circumstances will a hard border be erected across the island of Ireland.

You have said to the Democratic Unionist community that under no circumstances will there be divergence from the rest of Great Britain.

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Boris on Care: wrong words, right target

The corporate voice of the care sector is up in arms about the PM’s comments on care. Of course, his remarks about care homes, not following procedures were sly and clumsy, but he is right that the care sector should shoulder some of the blame for the virtual decimation of their aged residents.

Clap for carers was a touching display of community empathy for people in the front line but neither this outpouring nor the tragic deaths of care home staff should make the care sector itself exempt from criticism in the forthcoming debate on social care reform.

Just before this crisis …

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Can we ignore government guidelines if they aren’t legally enforceable?

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Dominic Cummings’ reckless behaviour has opened a rats nest that could undermine the battle against the pandemic.

If we thought that all government rules were the same, we were mistaken. There are two kinds:

  • regulations where the police can fine us if we break them. For example restrictions on our movement (see regulation 6 here).
  • guidelines where the police can’t take action. For example, the guidelines to stay at home if you are infected.

Remember this when you read the following quibble from a Number 10 spokesperson: “The police have made clear they are taking no action against Mr Cummings over his self-isolation and that going to Durham did not breach the regulations.”

What the Durham police actually said was: “Durham Constabulary does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence… (We are concerned here with breaches of the Regulations, not the general Government guidance to “stay at home”.)”

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James O’Brien on Boris Johnson defending Dominic Cummings

James O’Brien was so incensed by Boris Johnson’s defence of the indefensible actions by Dominic Cummings that, on Tuesday, his day off, he broadcast his thoughts on LBC. It is extremely powerful. You should listen to it.

 

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Ed Davey: Johnson must sack Cummings now

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Shortly after Dominic Cummings’ extraordinary media conference, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey, said:

Countless people have lost loved ones and made enormous, heartbreaking sacrifices every single day since lockdown began.

Dominic Cummings has shown that these sacrifices by millions of people don’t matter to him. His refusal to have the decency to apologise is an insult to us all. It reveals the worst of his elitist arrogance.

The bond of trust between the Government and the people has well and truly been broken. The buck stops with the Prime Minister. By failing to act, he risks his Government’s ability to tackle this awful pandemic and keep people safe.

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Ed Davey: PM’s own judgement now in question

Responding to the Prime Minister backing his scandal-hit aide, Dominic Cummings, at today’s press conference, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

Millions of people who’ve made huge sacrifices to keep to the rules will be astonished and angry at how the Prime Minister is now bending the rules for his closest aide.

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Daily View 2×2: 6 April 2020

Another work week starts, although the meaning of that is becoming even more fuzzy than it was in any event. Perhaps the need for more people to work from home will create more flexible working conditions for us going forward?…

2 big stories

The Prime Minister is in hospital, as a “precautionary measure”. The speech marks are because, given the criteria for admission into hospital, he shouldn’t apparently be in there. Whatever the case though, I wish him well. The Guardian considers here who runs the country in his absence;

In his role as first secretary of state, the prime minister’s de

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+++Boris Johnson announces strict lockdown

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Here is the text of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s address to the nation tonight:

Good evening,

The coronavirus is the biggest threat this country has faced for decades – and this country is not alone.

All over the world we are seeing the devastating impact of this invisible killer

And so tonight I want to update you on the latest steps we are taking to fight the disease and what you can do to help.

And I want to begin by reminding you why the UK has been taking the approach that we have.

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+++Open thread – Boris Johnson’s speech to the nation at 8:30pm

Boris Johnson is speaking to the nation at 8:30pm. Some expect him to announce a “lockdown”.

Please comment below as the speech unfolds….

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If Jacinda Ardern can do it, why can’t Johnson?


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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a complete lockdown of her country from Wednesday. Only essential services people will be allowed outside their homes.

New Zealand currently has 102 reported cases of Covid-19, with zero deaths from the disease.

The UK currently has 5,683 cases with 281 deaths. (Figures from John Hopkins University).

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Boris Booster!

Asked a few months ago what his philosophy is, what his politics represent, what his programme means, Boris Johnson, new UK Prime Minister, said,  “ …boosterism!” The notion of boosting morale, of boosting services, boosting business, boosting…Britain! This was and is great news, at least, from the man who during Brexit, said, f***, business!

Boosterism, is not a half bad philosophy of government, come to think of it. Certainly with more of an appeal, than say, “frugalism!” It might be the philosophy of government for the future! Whatever the concerns that populists only stand for populism,” boosterists,” of course, might not in fact only pander, to popular opinion, whether that is good or bad opinions. The public contains individuals for whom different policies might be popular. The “will of the people,” from a Liberal view, can mean, what, all the people?! Lincoln was correct; you can please all of the people some of the time, some of the people, all of the time, but not, all of the people all of the time! Boosterism might need the mood of the people, but could gain from the leadership, of the politician. What needs a boost, what are the priorities?

The new Prime Minister got off to a bad start, as a test of his approach. Not much boost to anything much, in a boot up some of his own parliamentary party, whips applied, rather than boosts, and whips withdrawn! So too, not much evidence of this new dawn for a new way, in at least as far as the public opinion goes, backing HS2 and Huawei!

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Will Boris Johnson’s popularity make us has-beens?

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I’m told that Boris Johnson was a positive factor in voters’ preferences at the last election. Apparently, it wasn’t just a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea, they actually liked the captain of the ship.

To many of us, Boris Johnson is either a clown, a liar, or worse and therefore not exactly Prime Ministerial material. Not so, I hear; he is just the sort of chap an aspirational working class lad or lass would admire.

Not so much the public school boy, unkempt toff or even likable rogue. No, he is “the very model of a modern major general”. – Someone to lead us all into a post-Brexit national renewal – England’s green and pleasant land. Notwithstanding the record of his predecessors, he is the salvation of the Conservative Party, embracing the new dawn.

Posted in Op-eds | 45 Comments
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