This was first posted on Facebook on 19th September 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.
I assume Oliver Wright, Francis Elliott, and Matt Chorley genuinely thought they were writing an article at the request of Dominic Cummings (I assume it was Big Dom) for three purposes: to make people feel sympathetic towards poor Boris Johnson, who has such a hard life, and also to frame the very slight concession to Tory rebels over the Internal Market Bill as a much bigger U turn than in fact it is, and finally to assure everyone that Boris Johnson is really, truly, a dedicated public servant and a man who intends to fight the 2024 general election.
As for making everyone feel sick with sympathy for poor Boris Johnson, who could not feel for a man who went from earning “earning well in excess of £350,000 a year” but who is now struggling to make ends meet on £150,000 a year – from which he must somehow pay for his expensive divorce from his newly-ex wife, and at least four of his children (he has still never admitted whether it’s six or seven children, but at least four of them are still financial dependents).
Johnson, poor lamb, doesn’t have a housekeeper at 10 Downing Street (or rather, at 11 Downing Street, the residence generally occupied by Prime Ministers when they have a family). He only has a cleaner. And yes, he has a large private garden overlooking St James Park, which is generally for his and his wife and child’s use only except when wanted for press conferences with heads of state and Dominic Cummings, but – woe! – “Even if he or Carrie want to go into the rose garden they have to go through the office.”
Furthermore, while 10 Downing Street has a catering department, any food sent up from the 10 Downing Street kitchens to the private residence of the Prime Minister must be paid for. Can’t you just imagine little Boris Johnson, enviously attending soirees in 10 Downing Street and imagining “When I am Prime Minister, I shall eat like this EVERY DAY” and then discovering that he has to PAY for his meals if he wants them cooked for him by 10 Downing Street staff? What a come-down, poor lamb.
“He’s always worried about money, he has a genuine need to provide for his family, all of them, and I think that does worry him” says an unnamed friend.
Yes, no wonder Boris Johnson plans to bring the furlough subsidy to an end at the end of October. After all, if he is experiencing all this stress and worry about how to pay for food and other expenses for his girlfriend and his four children, why should he go through this kind of stress alone?
More seriously, this is the first authorised admission that Boris Johnson is not well. I’d noticed in PMQs and other required appearances in Parliament that Boris Johnson looked ill, but previously to this article in the Sunday Times all official word had been that he is Totally Recovered from having COVID-19 so badly he spent time in the ICU.
He isn’t. The article admits he has memory problems, and mentions “The illness itself and having a baby was absolutely exhausting” (also, we are to sympathise that he was not allowed to go to Chequers for weekends, Poor Lamb).
The article includes pro-forma official claims that Boris Johnson is quite recovered, but given that this is quite definitely an official leak, we need not take this seriously. The reality is (from another unnamed friend):
“Ministers and other people say to me that he feels and looks unwell. He’s pin sharp one day and then he will say to somebody in his own inimitable way ‘Why have you not briefed me on that?’ and he’ll be told ‘You were told that yesterday.’ Whereas on other days he will cut straight to the quick and he knows the answer straight away. Physically I think Covid has had a huge impact, definitely.”
There’s also a sweet backhander at Carrie Symonds, who is likely also reading this article and wondering why she didn’t ditch Boris Johnson last year.
“What Marina gave Boris was grounding. Proper grounding in the hinterland of his political views. She was his intellectual match and in terms of his view everything was run by her or through her. She was instrumental in the organisation of his life from an intellectual standpoint. I don’t think it is quite the same relationship with Carrie.”
The article happily waves away issues about COVID-19, mentioning it only as a distraction from the serious issues of Brexit, and moves cheerily along to the meat of the article, the real reason for it besides inducing sympathy for Poor Boris Johnson, stuck in a mingy little flat with no nanny and a girlfirend quarter of a century younger than him and a new baby and struggling along on only £150,000 a year with all meals having to be paid for:
The Internal Market Bill, and the Tory rebellion.
You’ll be glad to know that this is not Boris Johnson’s fault. Of course not.
While Johnson was apparently “fully aware” of the “madman strategy” of threatening the EU with the UK “reneging on aspects of the withdrawal agreement”, Johnson was simply thinking of this as a strategy of showing Michel Barnier and other EU leaders, that he wasn’t Theresa May, he was “in command of parliament and could push through legislation that could make life difficult for the EU.”
But that question that Bob Neill asked and Brandon Lewis answered, so catastrophically?
Not Johnson’s fault at all. A Downing Street aide, name of Oliver Lewis, whom we are let to know is “nicknamed Sonic” was actually the one who “briefed Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, to tell MPs that, yes, the plan might be in breach of the UK’s international legal obligations, but the government was still prepared to do it.”
Johnson didn’t even know about the briefing and wasn’t in Parliament that day and it’s all Oliver “Sonic” Lewis’s fault, so there.
“It was Oliver Lewis who gave Brandon the words to say,” one senior Tory said. “Boris may have known about it but he certainly wasn’t aware of the full magnitude of it. It was a classic case where he had not thought through the issue in detail and was taken aback.”
At the end of the article, there is an end to the fakery of “a close friend”, “another close friend”, “a senior Tory”: at the very end, it’s 10 Downing Street speaking, that is to say, Dominic Cummings from his seat of power to your ear:
“He is constantly talking about the next election and what we need to do now to make sure we are in the right place in 2024. He is totally focused. He feels a real sense of public duty and public responsibility.”
Oh sure. And I’m the Queen of Sheba.