Red meat week?

Boris Johnson is reduced to conducting his publicity tours in secret


“We have now the prime minister, Boris Johnson, joining us from a farm in Cornwall!” We were listening to LBC, the political wing of Classic FM. The prime minister was kicking off another of his fightbacks: “Red Meat Week”, featuring fights with lawyers over immigration, fights with the EU over Brexit, and fights with bits of his party about both of these. 

Are you worried about rising food prices? You shouldn’t be

So popular is Johnson these days that he has to conduct his publicity tours in secret, lest he be mobbed by jeering crowds of well-wishers. He has retreated too from most live interviews, preferring recorded clips to camera, thus escaping the horror of Nick Robinson asking awkward questions about who exactly it was that negotiated and signed the wicked Brexit deal that the prime minister now disowns. 

He had, however, been persuaded that a different Nick, LBC’s Nick Ferrari, might not want to get into all that Euro-waffle, and so he had called in from his bolt-hole in the south west. “I’ve been looking at the most incredible production of courgettes, of broccoli in Cornwall,” he announced. Red Meat Week was already sounding a little disappointing.

Johnson however was determinedly upbeat. Are you worried about rising food prices? You shouldn’t be. “We’ve got an opportunity now to eat much more domestic produce!” Like the opportunities of Brexit, which have so far largely turned out to be jobs processing the forms that exporters now have to complete, the opportunities of not being able to afford imported food are only visible if you believe in them enough. Already, we are enjoying the opportunity not to drive unless it’s really necessary, and this winter we can all look forward to the opportunity to huddle together for warmth.

As Ferrari questioned whether broccoli was really the answer to anything, Johnson’s voice began to drop out. “We grow fa… b… n…,” he said, before suddenly coming back. “I just looked at a machine that can plant 150,000 cabbages in a day!” He sounded improbably enthused at the prospect.

Quite a lot of people in government turn out to have been breaking the law

The questioning moved to Priti Patel’s wizard plan to fly asylum-seekers to Rwanda. Ferrari pointed out that the numbers involved are shrinking by the minute. “It’s very important that the criminal gangs who are putting people’s lives at risk in the Channel understand that their business model is going to be broken,” the prime minister replied, although it’s really not clear that people smugglers care very much what happens to the people they smuggle, or indeed that they rely on feedback from satisfied travellers to win new customers. “FIVE STARS! Great communication and swift delivery, would def be smuggled again.” Certainly the 111 people who crossed the Channel on Sunday were undeterred by the prospect that one or two of them might one day be sent to Rwanda.

Ferrari asked about Prince Charles’s reported view that the policy is “appalling”. What did the prime minister say to the heir to the throne? The line, conveniently, went out. “I think that most people can see that the crim… g… … not only … at sea … that model … frustra… I’m a beneficiary, my own family …” Johnson’s views on royal political meddling were sadly lost to the ether. 

It was starting to feel like a séance with a reluctant spirit interlocutor. Our medium tried repeatedly to ask whether the prince was wrong. Sadly all we could hear at the other end were occasional whispers, perhaps telling us something about “dangerous criminal gangs,” or possibly simply revealing that Grandad was at peace now he’d passed over. It was the same when Ferrari tried to get an answer about the economy. Knock once for supply side reform or twice for tax cuts. 

Ferrari did finally get an answer, sort of, on Prince Charles and the Rwandans. “It’s the job of government to stop people who are breaking the law,” Johnson explained, unironically. Although sometimes it is the job of government to break the law in order to make a point about something. And at other times quite a lot of people in government turn out to have been breaking the law, but that was the right thing to do and they would do it again. 

Johnson used to promise us a land flowing with milk and honey, but it turns out we’re just getting endless cabbage. It’s all we deserve.

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