The Fragile Boris Johnson 163


I find election campaigns in which the Prime Minister addresses scrubbed, smug Tory audiences, filmed by the BBC in close shot to conceal the sparsity of their numbers, deeply disturbing. I find the speeches in factories to employees even more chilling. The sullen compliance of employees, too cowed to show discontent before their bosses, should disturb any right thinking person. This may bore millennials, but back in the 1970s it was inconceivable that a politician of any stripe could address a factory floor without some robust reaction from the workforce. In those days, workers had rights, their employment was protected, and they could not be dismissed on a whim. I have no doubt that the rise of the North Korean factory style meeting in British politics relates directly to the destruction of workers’ rights. Johnson did one in a electric taxi factory a couple of days ago and it was a staple of May’s appalling campaign.

Politicians only give speeches nowadays for them to be carried on electronic media, and the camera angles are considered more thoroughly than the content by their managers. The idea of a political meeting was that a politician would hire a public hall and invite the general public to come and listen to their attempt to win their vote, and engage in discussion with people. That idea has almost died, in favour of the outright propaganda model.

To his great credit, yesterday in Dundee Jeremy Corbyn did hold a relatively open meeting at the Queens Hotel, and he was heckled by Bob Costello. As it happens I know both Jeremy and Bob and have a lot of time for both of them. Bob’s heckle was the perfectly reasonable “I’m interested in what you’re going to do about the will of the Scottish people in relation to Section 30”. Section 30 in this context is Westminster’s agreement to an Independence referendum.

Heckling is a good thing. I do not hold for a moment with the notion that politicians must be heard in a respectful silence and questions reserved to the end. I almost always start my individual talks by encouraging people to interject if they have a burning desire to disagree. This was proper democratic politics as it ought to be conducted. Half decent politicians relish hecklers – they have the microphone and the platform and ought to have no difficulty in dominating the exchange if they are any good at all.

I would add that I have fierce contempt for the “security” argument for hiding politicians from their constituents. Far too often robust disagreement is falsely portrayed as threat. Another friend of mine, Nigel Jones, was when an MP attacked in his constituency office and left with permanent injuries. Public life carries risks. I have received a number of actual death threats over the years since I quit the FCO and started campaigning (often originating in Florida, for some peculiar reason). I doubt any MP has genuinely received significantly more than I. But I still hold perfectly open public meetings. I am in the phone book and on the open electoral register. My address is in Who’s Who. I find the continued bleating by politicians about their security insufferable. I faced the same nonsense in the FCO, when I was advised at various times under the FCO “Duty of Care” not to travel around the Ferghana Valley and around Sierra Leone and Monrovia – all of which I had to do in order to do my job properly. I ignored the advice, telling the FCO that if personal safety were my goal in life, I could have been an accountant.

I am surprised that the Tories feel the need to keep Johnson almost as wrapped in cottonwool as May, because Johnson is a better campaigner. His veneer of chummy bonhommie hides his menace effectively enough to fool most people most of the time. Where he is not good is under detailed, forensic questioning and I shall be surprised if the Tories let Andrew Neil at him. The broadcaster’s decisions on participation in debates are entirely governed by the Tory agenda. The Tories calculate that a sustained campaign of vilification has damaged Jeremy Corbyn to the extent the public will not listen to him, so the Tories are happy to debate Corbyn. They are determined to stop Sturgeon from interacting with Johnson, as she is an excellent debater. The Lib Dems are a major threat to Tory seats, which is why they want to keep Swinson as marginal as possible, although she is not a threat in debate.

By standing down candidates in 300 odd Tory constituencies, Nigel Farage drastically reduced the amount of time the broadcasters will give the Brexit Party. That is so fundamental, I simply do not believe it was done without a hidden Farage/Johnson understanding. The current “spat” between them over other candidates standing down is simply window dressing.

This is a fascinating campaign. I have not undertaken any quantitative analysis, but I have never before in a UK general election felt that, once a campaign was actually under way and the broadcasting rules in force, BBC bias continued quite as blatantly as it does at this moment. It is still my prediction that Cummings’ strategy means that vote spread will heavily disadvantage the Tories under FPTP and they will not get a majority. If they do, that can only hasten Scottish Independence and I will not personally suffer it for too long. But I feel very worried for the millions who would live under boot of the 1% in the conditions of deregulation a Tory victory would unleash.

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163 thoughts on “The Fragile Boris Johnson

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    • Rose

      Thanks Mont – that cheered me up no end to see those 2 clips.An object lesson on how to think on your feet and how not to.eh? What a contrast. And yet we’re told constantly how clever Mr Johnson is and how fluent and learned . I think that particular canard is being exposed for what it is.

      • Deb O'Nair

        “And yet we’re told constantly how clever Mr Johnson ”

        That point alone would indicate that it is likely untrue. Cunning, devious, dishonest and immoral? Yes. Clever? No. Johnson has got where he is by constant lying and backstabbing, selling himself out to foreign oligarchs of all stripes, while enjoying the absolute support of the media. He is an absolute wretch of man and a complete shame on this nation.

        • Rose

          Yes Deb – I once heard him being described as being the possessor of a “ferocious intellect”. I nearly dropped me stitches. Can’t remember who it was, but it could have been Mr. Trump.

  • Douglas

    ‘if personal safety were my goal in life, I could have been an accountant.’

    A lighthearted digression; not all accountant jobs were safe:
    I have film of the Malaysian Emergency showing the accountant of a tin mining company dropping the payroll to the dredging team by “bombing’ them with it at low altitude from the back seat of a Tiger Moth. It was the safest way as delivery by road was very vulnerable to ambush. The biggest fear was accidental drop into jungle causing massive audit trail problem.

    Having said that, I completely agree that political accountability ends if robust public questioning is blocked.
    It is an abuse of power to evade simple awkward questions by invoking the memory of those who have died or been injured making themselves available. This contact is what frontline public servants do every day.

  • Wikikettle

    I wonder what Eric Heffer would say about the state of the Labour Party and its NEC. He is missed.

    • Tony

      Tony Benn once recalled how he bumped into Margaret Thatcher at Eric Heffer’s funeral:

      “I remember her at the funeral of MP Eric Heffer. I was asked to make a speech and as I was waiting, there was someone behind me coughing. It was Mrs Thatcher, and at the end I thanked her for coming and she burst into tears. She had come out of respect for someone whose opinions she disagreed with.”

      • Ultraviolet

        I profoundly disagree with pretty much everything Thatcher did, believed in and stood for.

        However, one thing I do believe is that she was genuinely doing what she believed was in the best interests of the country, by way of public service.

        I cannot say anything remotely similar about most of today’s Tory Party. Almost all of them are in it to asset strip the country on behalf of themselves and their cronies.

        One exception, which might surprise people, is Michael Gove. However, he can’t be blind to what is happening, and therefore remains equally culpable.

  • Baalbek

    I ignored the advice, telling the FCO that if personal safety were my goal in life, I could have been an accountant.

    Much respect to you Mr. Murray for doing your work with integrity and courage. The obsession with security and ‘safety’ that began on 9/11 has become increasingly absurd, to the point where even challenging a person’s world view can make them feel ‘unsafe’.

    As for politicians and public figures who are overly concerned about their personal safety, I’ve often thought this is the sublimated expression of a guilty conscience. If they weren’t constantly destroying people’s lives by working against the public interest perhaps they would not be so worried about being attacked and harmed.

    Tellingly, they seem quite comfortable mingling and schmoozing with their wealthier constituents or members of the “business community”, it is only when they are amongst the commoners that they are surrounded by a security detail and quickly whisked away after their performance is over or at the first sign of audience discontent.

  • philipat

    The BBC has been consistently biased against Brexit for the last 3 years so that is hardly supportive of your allegation that the BBC favours the Tories? The same can be said of Sky. At this point, the British Establishment and the BBC (Sorry, I repeat myself) may have decided that a Johnson Brexit in name only is preferable to a Marxist regimen under Corbyn but that is not the same as outright bias for the Tories.

    I dislike Corbyn not for the usual reasons but because I think he is spineless. When dealing with the so-called “Anti-Semitism” issue, instead of standing up in defense of the Palestinian people and forcefully noting that criticism of political Revisionist Zionism and Isreali foreign policy is not anti-Semitism, he threw them under the London bus. He has also been a lifelong critic of the totalitarian EU yet for party political reasons, he did not stand by his principles and instead supported the Labour quasi-Remain position, 64% of electoral constituencies voted to Leave the EU, including 60% of Labour constituencies. In contrast, just 5% of Labour MPs voted to Leave, a FAR wider gap between MPs and constituencies than the Tories. IMHO the Labour party has enormously under-estimated the backlash which is going to take place against these MPs at the upcoming election.

    All of the above does not demonstrate true leadership or show the mark of a true man of principles.

    Regarding Scotland, I am a great believer in the right of self-determination and if the Scottish people wish to regain their freedom and national sovereignty, I am all for that. However, if these are indeed the goals, I can’t for the life of me understand why Scotland would then wish to re-apply to join the EU which is a Globalist construct with an agenda to create a “United States of Europe” through anti-democratic operating procedures and walking all over the freedom and sovereignty of individual member States?

    That said, on those very few occasions where the EU has actually allowed the peoples of Europe any say in their future, when the vote was not in favour of the desired outcome, the same voted has taken place repeatedly until finally the desired outcome is achived. I suppose that Scotland and the EU do have that much in common!!

      • Ingwe

        @Brian c @04:55. If your comment is aimed at philipat’s post at 04:45, it is unjustified. Nothing in philipat’s thoughtful analysis, even if you disagree with it, entitles your facile conclusion.

        • Crispa

          Philipat’s analysis might be thoughtful but it is thoughtful nonsense in respect of Jeremy Corbyn’s “spinelessness” on the anti – semitism issue, simply because anti-semitism should not be conflated with opposition to current Israeli policies towards the Palestinians and Labour in its response has constantly sought to avoid this. Because his Jewish critics have deliberately conflated the issues to sustain their unremitting attack on the Labour Party using Corbyn as the target is not a good reason for Labour to collude with the same.

      • Dave Lawton

        Brian c
        November 16, 2019 at 04:55
        The BBC has always been pro the EU project.Norman Reddaway of the IRD used it as a mouthpiece to manipulate the British people to vote to remain in the EU project in the run up to the 1975 including meddling from the CIA.This is how the BBC bias was in the 1930`s.“John Reith Director General of the BBC said to the Nazi Foreign Minister Ribbentrop that the BBC was not anti Nazi and if they were to send his German opposite number over for a visit he would fly the swastika from the top of Broadcasting House.”
        Appeasing Hitler Tim Bouverie.

    • Deb O'Nair

      “The BBC has been consistently biased against Brexit for the last 3 years so that is hardly supportive of your allegation that the BBC favours the Tories?”

      Why should they be mutually exclusive? The BBC coverup of the Johnson gaff-fest at the wreath laying ceremony where they replaced the actual wreath laying footage with 3 year old footage on their news bulletins, shows that they are protecting Johnson’s public image, i.e. aiding his election chances, all the while the BBC continually, and often quite blatantly, attacks Labour.

      • Marvin

        The BBC has indeed been consistent in its bias against Brexit. Had those who wanted to remain in the EU won through, the BBC would have continued with their rants.It is funded by the EU. But since it appears that Brexit is going to happen, the BBC are now having to cover themselves for the domestic audience.

    • Republicofscotland

      “I can’t for the life of me understand why Scotland would then wish to re-apply to join the EU which is a Globalist construct with an agenda to create a “United States of Europe” ”

      Oh that’s right the 1707 union was created with fairness and honesty. Of course the real truth is much more sinister, with common folk denied a vote, the wealthy and titled paid to vote for the union. The union documents had to be signed in the cellar of a shop on the corner of a street in Edinburgh whilst the common folk above in the streets rioted at the forced union.

      Lets not forget English fairness as an army stood by on the border between England and Scotland awaiting orders to invade if the union failed.

      No give me the EU, which has looked out for Ireland’s interests over Brexit, whilst Westminster seeks to weaken Holyrood.

      • Matt

        I can understand why Scotland want to leave the UK. But the EU is not independence. They haven’t been looking out for Ireland’s interests, they’ve been using Ireland as a negotiating and political pawn. So have we. If Scotland want to have any integrity as an independent sovereign state, then don’t go running to institutions that turn the other cheek when people try to exercise their democratic rights. You can only support independence and the EU simultaneously if you only support a referendum that is legally granted by the UK state, because if it’s deemed illegal, then “rule of law” means you can’t leave the UK, as far as the EU is concerned.

        If Scotland is in the EU and England is not, then we have a whole new border problem. I can’t see why anyone would relish this.

        I do think the UK should split though. Reunification for Ireland, independence for Scotland, Wales can do what they like. Just… join the Scandinavians instead. Do a Norway. They’d welcome an independent Scotland, and would respect your total sovereignty.

        • Hatuey

          It isn’t independence we want per se, it’s independence from people like you who are unable to grasp elementary concepts beyond things like “that is bad” and “he is good”.

          We’ve outgrown you.

    • Ian

      “The BBC has been consistently biased against Brexit for the last 3 years”

      Haha, nobody who has actually watched or listened to their output could seriously believe such a ridiculous assertion. Which only underlines the nonsense you then go on to assert as if it were even vaguely true or logical.

  • pete

    Years ago I once saw Jeremy Corbyn in the flesh, so to speak. I was returning home from work and emerged from Finsbury Park underground station into the busy bus terminal when I encountered Mr Corbyn and Hugh Rossi both mounted on little platforms and shouting at one another through megaphones. Neither had attracted much of a crowd as I would guess most of the people there only wanted to go home unmolested. I forget what their exchange was about, but clearly neither of them appeared to be concerned about being assassinated, although I have to confess that I had not considered that option as open to me.
    That kind of heated exchange between political rivals seems to be a thing of the past, in spite of the relatively low risk of riot. As Craig says, what we see now is stage managed events, usually carefully choreographed and scripted. In spite of ubiquitous cameras everywhere what we are presented with are the closely cropped snapshots that reveal only what will aid the desired narrative.
    Johnson’s visits occur unannounced, he delivers a message and moves swiftly on with no time left to discuss any assertions made. This is not a democratic process, not a consultation, not a debate. To use people trapped in a work environment where they would not be free to express their views in order to portray a political candidate as meeting the ‘people’ is misleading, it ought to be called what it is, propaganda.

    • Rowan Berkeley

      I experienced Jeremy Corbyn outside my window, doing a stump speech. I was struck by the mechanical way he revved up his voice for his peroration at the end. I though he was cheesy.

      • Dungroanin

        Have you ever seen a stage play? Pretty mechanical. That is how it is done when making the same speech at hundreds of venues.

        Bobo’s technique is comparable. More of a pantomime though then a stirring play.

  • Bob Costello

    Well said Craig and as you will know the heckling is not the end of the story and I have had a pretty awful couple of days with press and labour ferrets to the point that I had to close down my twitter and facebook accounts and also my blog site. most of the problems emanating from Labour circles. There was an accusation of antisemitism in the Mail for a comment in a blog I did some time ago where I gave the opinion that most of the media in the US was controlled by Jewish interests. They play the antisemitism card to get footage taken down from the major sites as quickly as possible. All part of the game I suppose

  • giyane

    Not breaking news. Because MSN will not inform you of the name of the private sector owner , Unite Students, of the Bolton blaze.
    Am I surprised that nothing has been done about the cladding since Grenfell?
    Tory greed is not fit for purpose.
    Bodge built. bodge maintained

    • giyane

      Richard ignorant Rodney Gordon Bennett recently accused me of being an incompetent electrician because he is not up to speed with modern electronics. Danfoss VLT micro drive is an inverter controller for a commercial extract hood fan. Eat poo, angry little man.

    • Mary

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valeo

      A giant French automotive parts manufacturer called VALEO has acquired Urban Student Life who operate the student accommodation in many locations. Everything is privatised now.

      ‘In early Q1, Valeo Groupe Europe, through one of its affiliated entities, acquired Urban Student Life Ltd, (USL) a full-service specialist student management and development company, which has 3,000 beds under its management. This acquisition also includes the operation and management of two student-facing brands – LIVStudent and Urban Student Life, under the Valeo Groupe Europe name.’
      https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/valeo-groupe-europe-releases-major-year-in-review-announcements-300767977.html

      https://www.urbanstudentlife.com/accommodation/

      Any comment from the Prime Minister yet? Floods. Fire. What next? Famine?

      • michael norton

        Valeo, its directors and its corporate medical function have been indicted after a decade-long penal procedure in 2006 for homicide, unintentional injury, and failure to assist a person in danger regarding its former use of asbestos which caused the death of hundreds of employees over many years.

      • giyane

        Marvin

        Do you mean Planning or do you mean enforcing changes after the lessons from Grenfell? Big corporations will produce paperwork expressing intention to comply with new rules as and when it suits them. That covers their backs and doesn’t cost shareholders a penny.
        Consciences do not exist in Tory Britain.
        This is worse than Grenfell because it proves that corporations are refusing to comply with regulations even after Grenfell. Most of these buildings are no longer needed because of the instability of Brexit. Our image abroad is of total incompetence and Tory laissez-faire.

  • Gerald Fords Dog

    Politicians feel the need to be protected from the reality they have created, the messy, expected or unexpected results of their oft disastrous policies. No more ably represented than by the homeless spikes that have sprung up in The City and elsewhere (near to the HoC for example) It appears that these people find the results of their handy work a little too upsetting and so try to pretend it doesn’t exist! Cognitive dissonance is rife amongst the ‘elites’.

  • Hatuey

    You can tell you live in a propaganda system when so many people go around with the same ideas in their heads and the ideas are just stupid.

    One such idea which we see all the time on here, delivered often by people seem to want to engage on an intelligent basis, is the idea that there’s a contradiction in Scotland wanting to leave the UK but remain part of or join the EU.

    In a nutshell, being in the UK requires that Scotland gives up to England (or Britain if you want to play with words) around 90% of its sovereign powers. That includes power over a lengthy list of things like macro economic policy, most tax, defence, industrial policy, foreign policy, broadband (lol), and much else. Importantly, it also means London completely controls Scottish finances in terms of treasury spending, borrowing, interest rates, etc.

    Scotland right now doesn’t even have one single publicly funded TV channel, run by Scottish people for Scottish people. It’s another reserved issue. Instead we need to accept whatever the BBC, in the guise of BBC Scotland, decides is newsworthy or of interest to us. Can anyone imagine a situation where the EU wouldn’t allow England to manage its own news and TV channels?

    As an independent country in the EU, Scotland would retain control over just about everything except trade and boring stuff like safety standards and regulations — since it makes sense to manage these things collectively, though, integration here is hugely beneficial.

    EU collective bargaining on trade, for example, has delivered astoundingly good results for member states, despite what you might read in the papers and on the Brexit Party blog. Scotland would inherit the benefits of all that work as an EU member and immediately have full market access to 50 major economies. And If England negotiates a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, Scotland would be party to that too as an EU member which means we probably needn’t worry about any barriers on the Scottish-English border.

    The best bit, of course, is that Scotland would get to manage its own finances and all the money currently drawn like blood from Scotland’s veins by London would stay here and be used to invest and develop our economy and society.

    Right now Scotland’s economy is geared towards earth extraction, much like a colonial economy would be. But we don’t want to measure our success in terms of how much England can drain from us. We want an economy geared toward wealth creation and we want to make Scotland the best place to live and work in the world, regardless of your background, colour, or creed. And that’s what we’re going to do.

    • Dave

      Except Westminster austerity is really EU austerity to save the Euro. Now there is no prospect of UK joining the Euro, Lab and Con have found the money tree, but leaving UK now would mean Scotland re-embracing EU austerity!

      • Hatuey

        Only euro members have limitations imposed on government spending and even then the limitations are extremely loose and flimsy. Germany is bankrolling government spending across the whole EU basically, to the tune of 100s of billions.

        It wouldn’t take long to establish that say Italy has weathered the credit crunch storm and spent more in the aftermath than it could or would have outside of the euro.

      • Mighty Drunken

        The UK does not have to follow “EU austerity” Stability and Growth Pact as we are not part of the Euro and not bound by the rules on spending. There is no mechanism to punish the UK, unlike there is for the Euro countries, there is merely a suggestion for “UK shall endeavour to avoid an excessive government deficit” . The UK austerity is most definitely Tory austerity.

    • Marvin

      Sounds really good until you remember that Scotland is always short of money and several of the EU states are struggling financially, that Germany’s economy is about to fall, Italy is near bankruptcy. That there are several unions created among countries within the EU itself, and that there has never been more unrest in Europe than since the union was formed. The EU already has said that it would not accept Scotland as a member and it is unlikely that Scotland would obtain independence anyway.

      Politics will always be the same – no matter whose face fronts the management of the UK. No-one will ever be able to change that, so why try?

      • Hatuey

        I wouldn’t know where to start if I was to try and respond to this level of negativity. What you’ve typed here reminds me of one of those dreadful “paintings” that are created by the “artist” throwing paint and driving his bike over the canvas.

        I’m tempted to suggest you need some sort of medical help but I’ve been warned that I should refrain from saying anything that borders on the personal.

  • Antonym

    Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t want to speak about Scottish independence during the first few years of his imaginary PM ship: are Nicola Surgeon & co deaf / blind?

  • Dave

    In 1997 Labour was elected on a promise to improve public services and join the Euro following a promised referendum. But this created a dilemma, because to improve public services required a big increase in public spending, but to join the Euro required more moderate spending to meet the sustainability and convergence rules, which Gordon Brown called his “Golden Rule”!

    To resolve the dilemma Brown promoted PFI mickey-mouse accounting which involved ‘private money’ funding public services. PFI had started under Major following the Maastricht Treaty, but took off under Labour as Labour had promised far more spending on public services than the conservatives.

    This was a very expensive way to fund public services but was deemed necessary to keep within Euro joining rules, so UK could quickly join when that became politically possible, when they could win the promised referendum!

    The promotion of PFI by Labour and then by Osborne showed Lab and Con support for joining the Euro, because using PFI to fund public services made no sense other than a ruse to spend more whilst remaining within the Euro joining rules.

    Following the financial crash this commitment remained, hence the EU austerity to save the Euro. Austerity makes no sense economically, but was pursued to meet the political objective of saving the Euro. Its true Britain wasn’t in the Euro and having our own currency had far more leeway, but PFI was continued by Osborne and there were big cuts in public spending in certain sectors of the economy.

    The big achievement of the Leave vote was to end any prospect of Britain joining the Euro hence Hammond announced the end of PFI and austerity and now both Lab and Con announce fabulous spending plans. Neither can admit the money was always there but was off limits due to their shared objective to join the Euro.

    Which is why pro-Remain blame the Tories rather than the EU/Euro for austerity, but if SNP want to remain in the EU without their own currency and join the Euro, then like Greece they will have to continue with the austerity they claim to oppose.

    Indeed I believe the referendum was called because Cameron wanted to use a Remain result to join the Euro, by trumping the earlier promise to hold a Euro-currency referendum.

    • michael norton

      The one stand out economy of the European Union is Poland, they have expanded their economy every year for the last 28 years, in the World, only Australia has bettered this record.
      Poland has only been in the E.U. for fifteen years.
      Poland will not be joining the Euro
      for to do so would cause Poland to lose its winning streak.
      The Euro is toxic.

  • Paul Barbara

    ‘As an antisemitism crisis threatens to engulf the Tory party, Laura Kuenssberg runs to the rescue’:
    https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2019/11/19/as-an-antisemitism-crisis-threatens-to-engulf-the-tory-party-laura-kuenssberg-runs-to-the-rescue/?__s=seteeshtqok6ahengz28
    ‘…Kuenssberg announced Houghton’s suspension without even mentioning antisemitism. Worse, she used the same tweet to announce the entirely unrelated resignation of an unknown local Labour Party official in Leicester. And she only linked to the Labour story:…’
    Bias? What bias?

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