A brief history of politicians and their hobbies – or Boris Johnson and the “Dead Cat”

Filing your ‘hobbies and interests’ on a CV or job application can prove a massive headache. Sure – there’s a small group of weirdos who have interesting extra-curricular lives and here is their moment to shine. But for the rest of us – the ‘what do you do in your free time’ bit on a resume poses a quandary. Are ‘swimming’ and ‘music’ technically ‘hobbies’ or should you just come clean and write ‘liking cats on social media’ and ‘getting really inappropriately drunk’ instead.

When going for those high profile gigs, like Prime Minister or party leader politicians face much the same dilemma – but with the attendant jeopardy that almost anything you say as a politician can be used to make you look like an idiot. Claiming to like ‘fell walking’ or ‘spending time with family’ might sound like a safe bet but it also risks making you seem irredeemably dull. Tell the truth about that out of control collection of Doris Day memorabilia on the other hand and you’ll likely be dust at the ballot box.

Boris Johnson doesn’t have a Doris Day habit – as far as we know – but he does like to make models of buses – out of wine boxes

After a disastrous few days of campaigning, dogged by negative headlines, Johnson gave a brief interview to Talk Radio’s Ross Kempsell at his campaign headquarters on Tuesday. Having set out his manifesto which amounted to something about the Northern Powerhouse and something else about ‘positive energy’ and Brexit – the subject turned to his leisure activities:

“What do you do to switch off?” Kempsell asked.

“Well – I like to paint. I make things.” Johnson responded and warming to his theme added: “I have a thing where I make models … I make buses…… I get old wooden crates ……and I paint passengers enjoying themselves – on the wonderful bus.”

Initially it seemed so ridiculous that many wondered if he was simply making it up. But it quickly transpired that Johnson had been trotting out this line about making stuff out of packaging for years. In 2011, during his ‘cheese-period’ he told the Metro newspaper:

“You get Brie and Camembert in these lovely wooden boxes. Now it might sound cretinous and I’m not a very good painter but I enjoy it and find it therapeutic.”

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Boris has a long and enduring love affair with buses

What leaders do in their spare time is oddly fascinating. Jeremy Corbyn is a keen ‘operculist’ i.e. he has a fascination with old manhole covers. Jeremy is a specialist in that he has a particular love of drain-covers and in an interview on Lorraine some years ago became animated on the topic in a way that I’ve never witnessed him discussing anything else.

corbyn
For Corbyn it’s drains

Angela Merkel bakes – and can apparently make an amazing plum cake. Jeremy Hunt lists ‘Latin American music’ and ‘dancing’ as his hobbies – suggesting that his personality really comes alive in those private moments. Nigel Farage – leader of the Brexit party is a keen angler and likes to land a big whopper whenever he can. Former PM David Cameron is ‘soccer mad’ and so keen on the game that while in office he kept forgetting which team he supported. Tony Blair – one time front man of university rock band Ugly Rumours spent his time at Downing Street picking out tunes on his electric guitar.

The bigger the dictator the more incongruous their hobbies appear.

Saddam Hussein whiled away the moments between invading his neighbours, plotting to destroy the West and murdering his people writing romantic fiction. Hitler, like Churchill, loved to paint but he was also a big fan of Walt Disney’s Pinocchio and it is claimed doodled sketches of the little marionette on scraps of paper. Stalin liked drawing naked men. Idi Amin was a Tom and Jerry super-fan.

tom and jerry
Idi Amin was obsessed with Tom and Jerry

Boris’s revelation story certainly places him in the weirder echelons of political hobby-crafting and the last 24 hours on twitter has been dominated with chatter about his bus building exploits. So much so that the real meat of his interview – in which he sought to set out his agenda if elected as PM was completely ignored. So here it is:

Boris: Number one, Ross, we need to be increasing our spending on education around the country and lifting up the per capita spend. Number two, we want to have a big program of transport infrastructure. And I’m looking at all sorts of things we can do to help Andy Street in the West Midlands, Northern Powerhouse Rail, there’s all sorts of things we can do to help with our roads. We need to be putting some money into the police and on Brexit. We will of course be pushing our plan into action. So we are getting ready to come out on October the 31st.

Its bollocks, isn’t it? Proper drivel. And perhaps as the likes of myself have set out to write about Boris’s ‘busses built from boxes’ story we have all once again fallen for Johnson’s favourite trick – the so called ‘dead cat strategy.’

If you throw a ‘dead cat’ on a table everyone will be so busy talking about the animal and the event that they will be distracted from the substance of everything else that is going on around it. Perhaps sensing that he had delivered yet another lacklustre, ill-briefed and ill-prepared interview – Johnson came out with his elaborate story to divert attention from his unsuitability to be the next PM.

If only he loved fell walking instead.

Boris: Why I am leaving the failing Johnson Family Project to explore global opportunities

When I was at school there was a boy called Rupert Vander-Likker who excelled at setting fire to things. ‘Likkers’ was always busy with the petrol can. First he burned down some local woodland, then he set fire to Matron’s car – (while she was in it) and finally, having achieved a little notoriety went on to his magnus opus, torching a very ugly council estate that blighted the edges of Windsor. I’m sorry to report that rather than congratulating him on his splendid efforts at regeneration, the local constabulary took rather a dim view of all this, as did the residents of Mandela drive (or whatever the ghastly place was called). Likkers was summoned before the Headmaster and given a stern warning that if he did it again he would have to pay for it all out of his own pocket money. No real harm was done of course as it was kept out of papers but Rupert, I am sorry to say, never set fire to anything again, causing all of us to lose interest in him.

Some years later news filtered through to The Beefsteak Club that Likkers had settled down with a lesbian who didn’t shave her armpits – and was making a living for himself saving starving little picaninnies in Africa. I have lived ever since by the motto: Noli esse vir Rupert. Never be like Rupert! Never settle for anything less than the magnificent chap you were at 18!

boris three
It was not me Guv! It was that other chap.

I was reminded of Likkers earlier this year when my wife caught me with my lucky pants on my head romping with a pretty young girl, whose name escapes me – somewhere in the Cotswolds. I had really worked up quite a bit of steam and was about to yell my signature release howl of “tally ho for the Bullers!” when the door flung open to reveal the old battle axe standing there with tears streaming down her face – wholly ruining the magic of the moment. My first thought, as ever, was for myself and my second was for what this might mean for my chances of getting into Number 10.

Having extracted myself from my companion and pulled on my jogging plimsols, I found Mrs. Johnson out in the corridor making a terrible fuss about nothing.

“I can’t take this anymore!” The old harridan was wailing: “you’ve cheated on me again and again and I just can’t take it – all the lies – all the f*cking of everyone all the time!”

“Well now you know how the British people feel!” I quipped – ever with one eye on edition two of the ‘Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson.’ Indeed it was so good that I thought I ought to write it down and went off in search of a pencil and pad. Famously impatient, by the time I returned the old trouble and strife had gone and some weeks later the chaps at Mischon de Reya sent me a letter telling me she was filing for divorce – thus making an absolute pig’s trotter of my ambitions.

It was Tacitus who said: “In pessima republica plurimae leges”

boris two
My lucky pants

It was Tacitus who said: “In pessima republica plurimae legis” and while the quote itself is wholly meaningless in this context, I have found that chucking Latin into my articles does make the ordinary fellow assume that I am an intellectual leviathan.

Now you might be thinking: “poor you being treated like that by the old girl just when you’ve got a proper crack at the leadership. What a shoddy woman.” Well, nothing actually could be further from the truth. You see for years I have had my doubts about the failing and unwieldy Johnson family project. It is a never ending money pit into which I have been obliged to throw a lot of cash for very little return indeed. While in its origins the marriage may have had noble intentions, frankly I signed up for a jolly good shagathon and someone to go and do the shopping. I had no idea at all that it would involve all of those babies and responsibilities and school fees and worst of all that the old todger would be put out for retirement in just a few short years.

Mrs. Johnson may now have joined the Singles Market, but I have my sights set on greater challenges. It is time to explore global opportunities and global partners. I am taking back control of my meat and two veg (wonky or not) and am going to make a jolly good fist of it. Divorce may be painful at first but I shall be able to put all the money I have wasted weekly on my marriage and invest it instead in things that really matter to the British people – my campaign to become Prime Minister.

There are some who question whether a man of dubious moral standards, who has cheated on both his wives, sired a child by another women, displayed not a jot of actual talent, offered to get a chum’s sworn enemies beaten up and been sacked for lies and incompetence should be Prime Minister. To those people I say “remember that time I was on a zipwire!” And to the little people I say: “Non est ad astra mollis e terris via.” They have no idea what it means of course, but it should placate the thick little yahoos long enough to get me what I want.

(as told to Otto English – satirical content)

The Boris Bridge was a dead cat – and everybody fell for it

France’s charismatic leader Emmanuel Macron arrived in London last week for talks with the UK government about all things Brexit. A new migrant treaty was signed, old bonds were reaffirmed, selfies were taken and striking a gloomier note, the French President stressed that if the UK financial services industry wanted to preserve access to the EU single market post-Brexit it was welcome to do so – provided it obeyed the bloc’s rules – adding, a little sarcastically “Be my guest.”

You may have missed it. Indeed it is quite likely that you missed everything Monsieur Macron said during his visit, because on the very same day and at the same summit, the UK Foreign Secretary – Boris Johnson proposed the construction of a 22 mile long bridge, linking France and Britain.

Boris Johnson has no authority to green light such a project nor – as Foreign Secretary – is it within his remit. That didn’t stop the press and indeed all of us – embarking on an epic frenzy of what-ifery. Within minutes #BorisBridge was trending on twitter and hacks were taking to their computers, while pundits and architects took calls from radio stations and news producers pushed the story to the top of their programmes. It led the hour on BBC and Sky news for much of the rest of the day.

foster bridge
The Millau Viaduct in France – a classic and beautiful example of Anglo-British engineering

So unwelcome was this unilateral declaration of architectural intent, that Downing Street at first refused even to comment on the idea – but finally gave in and a weary press secretary revealed there were ‘no plans’ for such a project. Too late – the Boris Bridge was still trending on Saturday morning – you no doubt have an opinion on it, as does your mother, your Uncle Jeffy, your cousin Susan and her dog.

So why did Johnson do this?

There are two possible explanations. Firstly, Johnson’s singular goal is to be Prime Minister. It’s been his ambition for decades. He’s also a politician who lacks imagination in the way that Death Valley lacks moisture. Boris’s Mayoralty was built on a series of faintly hair-brained, very costly but essentially insipid and unfeasible ‘grand projects.’ An ersatz and impractical Routemaster, a cable car that literally went from nowhere to nowhere and the ridiculous Thames estuary airport which would have involved building runways in an area teaming with large wildfowl. A big project could be PM in waiting Boris’s eye catching pitch for the top job

I don’t think that’s what’s at play here.

In fact the Boris Bridge is a classic example of a ‘dead cat strategy,’ a tactic whereby a lurid, crazy or sensationalist idea is thrown into political discourse in order to divert attention away from a more damaging topic. In essence, chuck a dead moggy on the dining room table and everyone is too busy talking about the deceased cat to bother about anything else.

The strategy was deployed very effectively during the EU Referendum – headlines were grabbed and Leave steered the agenda away from the actual subject of our relationship with the EU and onto slogans written on red buses, fishing flotillas sailing down the Thames and the billions of Turkish people who would apparently be pouring into the UK the week after the referendum.

boris johnson
Boris Johnson – the British Trump

In the case of the Boris Bridge – all attention was diverted away from Macron and his words of warning and onto the conceited and single-minded Johnson. It worked beautifully, not least because the media were entirely complicit. There were no plans for a bridge over the Channel. There is unlikely ever to be a bridge over the Channel. But everyone was talking about the bridge over the Channel. Not a single journalist bothered to stop and think and query the motives behind it – and we all lapped it up.

Does it matter? Yes – it matters absolutely, because there’s what the politicians say and what the politicians are reported to have said and then there’s the real motivation behind it – which is unfortunately left, more and more, both unquestioned and unchallenged. Boris Johnson knows that and he plays it artfully in much the same way that Nigel Farage does. Boris succeeds because the media is, for the most part, so infatuated with him that they are happy to facilitate the ride he is taking you for.

That should make you angry and if it does not then think about it this way – Boris Johnson thinks you are stupid Britain, he holds you in contempt and he has calculated that his tousled mop and winning smile will forgive all ills – don’t be his useful idiots.

The Defenestrator – David Davis J’Accuse

David Davis is brought before our frankly terrifying judge

David Davis, you come before us charged with incompetence, cowardice and dereliction of duty.

Before I pass judgement let me review the facts of this case.

Stand up straight man and wipe that ridiculous leer off your face.

We are told today that you wish to quit as Brexit Secretary in 2019, long before anything is finalised, leaving Doris Johnson to steer the nation on to the iceberg instead. We are told that you see the role of Brexit Secretary as your last big job – much as an ill-mannered ruffian might refer a recent turd that refuses to flush. You’ve certainly helped create an awful mess and a terrible stink and I suspect all the water on Earth won’t remedy that nor swill it away.

There is nothing to smirk about at all. Straighten your tie.

Never shy of mentioning the fact that you were “in the SAS” I see that that you were never actually a full time soldier. You joined the Territorial Army in order to pay your way through university, much as you were later to become Brexit Secretary in order to pay your way through lunch.

From university you went to Tate and Lyle – where you worked for 17 years and developed a habit for sugar (6 spoonfuls a cup) while selling obesity and rotten teeth to the nation. While there you lobbied the firm to bung cash Neil Hamilton’s way – supporting him in his libel case against the BBC.

Tate and Lyle incidentally is one of the very few big businesses to be benefitting from Brexit, but we are all very satisfied that your former role there has nothing to do with your later deeply held ideological opposition to the European Union. Very satisfied indeed.

And then in 1988 you began your itinerant “political journey” in much the same way that a man leaving a nightclub at 3 a.m. might begin his.

No you might not break for lunch.

As a whip in John Major’s government in 1992 you became known as an enforcer, facing down 70 potentially rebellious MPs to push through THE MAASTRICHT TREATY which cemented the foundations of the EU and our place within it. Yes. The Maastricht Treaty that created the European Union. That thing. Without your “soft touch” in the corridors of Westminster the UK might never have ratified the treaty.

Happily for you, the public seemingly have the collective memory of a decapitated goldfish that has been put through a blender. You have flourished in an environment where soundbites and stupidity rather than ‘integrity’ or ‘ability’ create political careers. As with all the other Brexiteers you have been little more than a professional heckler for most of your political life. A Shadow Secretary of State. A Shadow Home Secretary. A Shadow of a Statesman.

When you were finally offered the chance to enter the government and actually ‘do things’ by David Cameron, you turned him down – preferring instead to shout jeers from the touchline and discover your inner populist right wing Farage. Now – having won your Brexit victory – you are left standing with it – like a pissed monkey with a primed torpedo – unsure of what to do next.

You, Davis, have led this country into this mess. You, Davis, have been charged with leading us through the most treacherous and potentially chaotic period in our post-war history and yet in all those decades of sneering you appear never to have bothered to have read up on the EU or our relationship with it.

Over the last few years you have claimed that the EU Commission passes laws. It doesn’t.

You have claimed that the UK can broker individual deals with the EU. It can’t.

You have said that post Brexit – the UK will be able to secure free trade deals “ten times the size of the EU” – or in real terms ‘nearly twice the size of the actual global economy’ – or in plain English “bollocks.”

Not understanding the labyrinthine scale of the EU and our relationship with it may be understandable (if you weren’t the Brexit Secretary). Not understanding basic mathematics is not.

As this nightmare has coasted from one catastrophe to another you have made your country look ridiculous. You are laughed at on the continent – ridiculed as unprepared, ill-informed and out of your depth. The only foreign words you seem to understand are ‘non’ and ‘dejeuner’. Rather than bothering with your brief, you have another pint.

If you adjudged that Brexit would be a success you would want to remain and take the glory and yet as the slow curse of this idiocy kicks in you have clearly had a moment of clarity. Like all politicans you have perhaps wondered how history might judge you and having realised that it ‘doesn’t look good’ done what no real SAS man would – run away.

Your political legacy has demonstrated only that a man gifted with little apparent talent, skill, intelligence, wit, charm or ability can rise to the very top of power and British politics. I’m not sure if that is our shame or yours.

Either way – TAKE HIM AWAY GIRLS.

nuns guns