SCURRRRRRRGHH! The same way a record needle scratching across an old-fashioned LP can destroy the perfect ambience, Boris Johnson’s relatively smooth election campaign veered into inclement waters yesterday.
The horrific knife attack at London Bridge forced him back into emergency discussions at Downing Street. The baby-kissing, beer-drinking and scone-scoffing photo ops were rightly brought to a dramatic halt.
Before the gravely serious aspect of government took over, Johnson had endured a dog’s brekkie of an interview on London cabbies’ favourite, LBC.
SCURRRRRRRGHH! The same way a record needle scratching across an old-fashioned LP can destroy the perfect ambience, Boris Johnson’s relatively smooth election campaign veered into inclement waters yesterday (pictured)
For just under an hour, he sat squeezed in swivel chair opposite host Nick Ferrari, the two men bantering away like two pub bores bemoaning the November weather. Should Hollywood producers ever wish to remake those classic Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon flicks such as Grumpy Old Men, these two would be perfect casting.
Ferrari is a ferret-like ex-red top tabloid hack and possessor of a ruby-red proboscis, shaped and honed by some of Bordeaux’s finest exports.
I’d be tempted to describe him as a ‘man of the people’ except a disloyal colleague tells me that since his transformation into a broadcasting gran formaggio, he now gets his tresses tended by celebrity crimper Nicky Clarke.
Yesterday, his hair looked resplendent – as if it had undergone a goji berry rinse.
Boris? He was rocking his usual Worzel Gummidge look. If his latest snip cost more than three quid, he was had.
At least he was wearing a new tie, a raffish polka dot number.
Ferrari began with Labour’s smears that Boris plans to flog the NHS to the Yanks. ‘Pure Bermuda Triangle stuff,’ Boris guffawed, trying to drag the conversation to Jeremy Corbyn’s muddled Brexit stance.
‘But people don’t trust you, Prime Minister,’ Ferrari countered. Boris: ‘Well, I think they should…’
The phone lines opened. A listener called David wanted to talk trade deals. Boris: ‘Yes, sir!’ How many are in place, he was asked. The PM wasn’t sure.
‘How many are oven-ready?’ asked Ferrari, sarcastically repeating the PM’s vernacular. ‘A number… I’ll have to come back and tell you,’ mumbled Boris.
Ferrari: ‘Why are you whispering? You have a microphone.’ Boris: ‘Huh, huh.’
The horrific knife attack at London Bridge forced him back into emergency discussions at Downing Street. The baby-kissing, beer-drinking and scone-scoffing photo ops were rightly brought to a dramatic halt
Another caller asked what was more important: being PM or getting Brexit done? ‘Oh Brexit, definitely!’ Ferrari wondered why anyone should believe him: ‘You’ve already promised to die in a ditch.’ Next, Sandra from Longbridge said she was confused about the postcode lottery of social care. Challenged about how many people might have to sell their home to pay for their social care costs, Boris said he was unable to ‘give that number’.
Moving swiftly on to the importance of apprenticeships, the PM praised the work of Timpson, the shoe repair and key-cutting business which trains hundreds of youngsters a year.
‘That’s a load of cobblers,’ interjected Ferrari. Boris grinned: ‘They mend people’s souls in many ways!’
As ever, the PM tried to get the conversation back to Brexit and Corbyn, who he compared to Macavity, T S Eliot’s mystery cat. ‘Speaking of cats, where’s Moggy? Where’s Jacob Rees-Mogg?’ asked Ferrari unsuccessfully, in reference to the Brexiteer being marginalised from the Tory campaign after making an insensitive comment about the Grenfell fire.
The PM’s worst moments came when tackled about why it took him so long to visit flood victims recently in Yorkshire.
Ruth, a hot-breathed single mother, was then put through to the studio to berate Boris after a Labour-supporting newspaper had reported that, in 1995, he had described children in single-parent homes as ‘ill-raised, ignorant and aggressive and illegitimate’.
This gave Ferrari a golden opportunity to mention Boris’s own numerous progeny with different women. ‘Are you fully and wholly involved in their lives?’ he asked.
Oooh, this was getting below the navel!
Ferrari then raised the Prime Minister’s paramour, Carrie – a ‘partner considerably younger than you’ – and asked if any more little Johnsons might be born. ‘As if the country hasn’t suffered enough with the existing tribe!’ he joked.
Boris stretched his arms out wide: ‘I’m not going to get into that!’
As the interview ended, the PM tried to lighten the mood by talking about high street chain Greggs’ ‘vegan sausage rolls’, but Ferrari had no appetite.
All in all, it was a rather unsatisfactory performance.
Several hours later, though, none of that mattered.
The daftness of the Boris v Ferrari duel seemed utterly trivial when this country faces much, much bigger issues.