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IT’S not every day I get a call from a major broadcaster asking if I’ll grace the airwaves to discuss the authenticity of the Loch Ness monster.
Still, when the BBC Scotland producer telephoned yesterday, I decided my relative indifference to the matter was enough to get me off the hook this time round.
I ate my breakfast in relative bemusement, but Nessie was soon out of my mind. Not so for Boris Johnson, however, who was asked about the legend as he began a trip to Scotland.
He “yearns to believe” in the Loch Ness monster, he told journalists, despite new research suggesting supposed sightings have in fact been of giant eels.
A bit of harmless fun? Any reason for a news talking point that isn’t Brexit? No, this is Johnson at his most sinister.
The PM has perfected a knack for creating bizarre distractions at times when he is at his most vulnerable. And Britain’s press and political class don’t just fall for it — they encourage it, and come back each time hungry for more.
Was it a mere coincidence that Johnson concocted the extraordinary tale of making model buses from wooden crates just after coming under scrutiny from Jeremy Hunt and others for avoiding the spotlight?
Or indeed, that he and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds just happened to adopt a rescue dog on the day the Tories’ parliamentary integrity was in freefall?
These pathetic sideshows should be as transparent to journalists as his attempt to avoid questions after comparing women in burkas to letter boxes and bank robbers by offering reporters tea.
Ah, scratch that sentence. For those reporters went ahead and accepted a brew — showing that mugs weren’t confined to Johnson’s tea tray that morning.
As I’ve argued before, condemning Johnson on the basis of his “character,” as Sky News correspondent Beth Rigby did in a bit of solid reporting earlier this summer, won’t suffice on its own.
For it is Johnson’s very character which propelled him to high office. And whether it’s ludicrous diversions or aggressive behaviour, it reinforces the smile and shoeshine on which he rides — that he’s not like other politicians, and just an ordinary guy with eccentricities and deep flaws like the rest of us.
He’s sure got flaws, and yes, perhaps he genuinely has charming eccentricities too — but there is a crucial difference. The rest of us don’t get to screw up the country with the knowledge we’ll get off unscathed.
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