Boris Johnson: 'The boy who wanted to be king.

At next week's European Speechwriters conference in Paris, Brian Jenner has asked me to run a breakout session on the afternoon of Friday 27th September - where the probable topic is the rhetorical skill (or otherwise) of new UK prime minister Johnson.

I'd strongly recommend anyone thinking of attending the session watches the above 10 minute interview with Michael Cockerell on BBC Newsnight, as it's one of the most revealing programmes about him that I've seen (and includes some early footage of the young Johnson as president of the Oxford Union Debating society).

Which living UK PMs weren't at yesterday's memorial service for Paddy Ashdown?

Yesterday, I was one of the 2,000 people who assembled in Westminster Abbey for 'A Service of Thanksgiving for the life and work of the Right Honourable the Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon KCMG CH KB 1941-2018':

Of the six living UK prime ministers, four were there (see below) - one of whom, John Major, gave an excellent address. But Theresa May and Boris Johnson were not there. 

When Paddy died last December, Mrs May said that he had "served this country with distinction" and "had dedicated his life to public service and he will be sorely missed." She was. of course, right. But an internet search reveals that our current journalist PM neither said nor wrote anything about this unexpected death that took everyone by surprise. And one can only assume that he was far too busy yesterday (consulting lawyers at our expense?) to be bothered to join the many other politicians and journalists who were there.

Left to right: Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, David Cameron, John Major
Apart from current and former LibDem MPs and peers, other from Westminster's great and the good who were there included Speakers John Bercow and Norman Fowler, Chris Patten, Shami Chakrabati, Peter Mandelson, Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine.

In other words, reps from different parties - but quite a few of the Tory elder statesmen have been sacked by Johnson and his Brexiteer cabinet cronies. 

So not at all surprising that our Etonion-Oxford-educated PM didn't have the manners to show up yesterday. If I'd had the money to pay to educate my children so expensively, I'd ask Eton and Balliol for my money back....

Johnson's professional media manipulators

On 19th August, The New European published the following:
Boris Johnson's new advisers are urging ministers to avoid Radio 4'sToday programme as they believe the programme is a 'total waste of time'.
According to the Mail on Sundaythe new director of communications at Downing Street Lee Cain has advised his colleagues to stop putting up ministers to appear on the programme.
The proposal has the support of Dominic Cummings who is reported to have declared last week: "I never listened to the Today programme for the entire year of the referendum and I intend to repeat this while I am here." 
He said not to put ministers forward "unless they change format and actually start exploring serious subjects in a serious way".
During Boris Johnson's leadership campaign the only interviews he gave were with Sky News' Sophy Ridge and the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg.
He refused to give an interview to Radio 4's Today programme, instead turning up briefly on the station's World at  One.

Anyone curious to know more about Messrs. Cain and Cummings (for whom as taxpayers we are all paying) need look no further than Wikipedia which tells us about both of them:
Lee Cain is a British journalist and government appointee who currently serves as Downing Street Director of Communications under Boris Johnson. Cain was appointed by Johnson on 24 July 2019...
Prior to his appointment, Cain worked as Head of Broadcast for the Vote Leave campaign, in addition to serving at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under Andrea Leadsom and Michael Gove. He briefly worked for Theresa May before leaving to work with Johnson while he was serving as Secretary of Stated for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Cain's former employer, The Daily Mirror has stated that was deployed to taunt former Prime Minister David Cameron and other Conservative MPs dressed as a chicken.

Dominic Cummings born 25 November 1971) is a British political strategist. From 2007 to 2014 he was a special adviser to the then Education Secretary, Michael Gove. In 2015–16 he was the campaign director of Vote Leave, an organization opposed to continued UK membership of the European Union and which took an active part in the 2016 referendum campaign on the subject. In July 2019 the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, Prime Ministerappointed him to the role of special adviser to the government.


If you were surprised by Johnson's  willingness  to pick a cabinet so full of hard-line brexiteers, his selection of hardline brexiteer backroom boys is not surprising but totally predictable. It's not just that they were both deeply involved in the Vote Leave campaign, but Cain subsequently worked for other leading brexiteers like Leadsom and Gove.

Has our esteemed PM forgotten that his government has a majority of ONE - and that there are plenty of Tory MPs who are still keen remainers and/or opposed to leaving the EU without a deal?