Will his latest ‘escapade’ be the final nail in his coffin?
Well, that was that: the ‘heatwave’ is over. It’s back to normal. Temperatures have dropped, there are clouds and rain, except for a small stretch at the southernmost South Coast where they still have ‘climate crisis’, formerly known as warm sunshine (link).
The papers this morning are oh-so-subtly nudging the populace towards accepting poverty as the Red Tops demand people, i.e. airport staff, ought to work harder and the Broadsheets give space to a Treasury secretary who explained that big pay rises would make inflation worse (link). Funny that – I thought it was Putin who created this inflation, according to Mr Biden, but what do I know …
One person however is going to feel the heat – or perhaps he’ll be finally left standing in the rain: the PM. In what can only be described as a ‘me too’ moment, he travelled to meet Mr ‘e yesterday. ‘Me too’ because on Thursday the French, Italian and German leaders – Macron, Draghi and Scholz, accompanied by the Romanian PM Iohannis, had gone to a much-vaunted meeting with Mr ‘e. The Guardian illustrated their write-up with a photo (link): gawd, aren’t they all tiny, except for the Romanian … Sorry, they can’t help their physical stature – I’m a bad person to so disrespect the length-wise challenged!
One point about the PM’s visit is that this was a ‘surprise visit’. It’s quite amazing that nothing at all was leaked about this: see, No 10 can keep a secret when they want to! Johnson was supposed to ‘go North’ but went to Kiev instead – ‘in secret’:
“Mr Johnson was due to attend the inaugural gathering of the Northern Research Group, made up of MPs whose seats the Conservatives won from Labour at the 2019 election. However, he pulled out just hours before he was supposed to give a keynote address and later announced that he had travelled to Kyiv to meet Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president. His decision to skip the event in Doncaster and a campaign visit in nearby Wakefield, where the Tories face a by-election mauling next week, sparked another furious internal Tory row.” (paywalled link)
To make things even worse: this visit was kept so secret that the organisers of that Northern Research Group were utterly left in the dark:
“The visit [to Kiev] was arranged in secret and Johnson travelled overnight by train. […] The Northern Research Group (NRG), an 80-strong caucus of red wall Tories, was expecting Johnson to speak in a “fireside chat” with Jake Berry, the group’s chairman, in Doncaster yesterday afternoon. In the morning organisers were still receiving assurances that Johnson would attend and at one point were told he was on the train. Berry was so sure the prime minister would attend that he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that he was looking forward to welcoming him.” (link, paywalled)
If that isn’t contempt for his supporters and Party members, for those who got him his majority in December 2019, breaching the ‘Red Wall’, then I don’t know what is! While Mr Berry put a brave face on this no-show by the PM, his MPs didn’t:
“Privately Tory MPs were furious, however. “The whole operation illustrates how little Boris cares about his colleagues,” one senior MP said. “We found out via reporters that the prime minister was not joining, after being informed he was. Astonishing that the man who was elected on levelling up would treat his majority like this.” (link, paywalled)
I don’t wonder that those Tories were ‘infuriated’ when the organisers of that meeting and of the MPs canvassing in Wakefield were told that the PM ‘was on the train’. So he was – no lie, see? – but that was the train to and from his ‘surprise Kiev visit’:
“Angry Tory MPs accused Boris Johnson of showing “contempt for the North” after he cancelled a speech at a Red Wall conference to visit Ukraine. […] One senior member of the Northern Research Group said its MPs had backed him in the confidence vote, but he has now “burnt through colleagues’ goodwill” with the no-show. “He is clearly scared of voters, and holds his colleagues, and the North of England in contempt,” they said.” (paywalled link)
Just so, but while some MPs are furious and are even talking openly of toppling Johnson, hinting that they’d throw their hat into the ring in a leadership contest, e.g. Mr Tugendhat, others are still clinging to the “Big Dog”, defending the indefensible:
“The Prime Minister’s allies defended his decision to head to Kyiv and suggested that his critics were overreacting. Simon Clarke, the MP for Middlesbrough East and South Cleveland, said: “I think people seriously need to check their priorities.” Ben Houchen, the Tory mayor for Tees Valley, added: “Ukraine’s fight against Russia is absolutely more important than the PM attending a conference of Red Wall Tory politicians.” (paywalled link)
Oh yes, that’s a sure vote winner: unshakeable support for Johnson, come rain or shine, and putting the Ukraine first! Never mind the ‘cost of living crisis’, a.k.a. Inflation: that’s a false priority, according to Mr Clarke MP. Of course, we plebs, especially the Northern variety, must understand that we’re not important – the Ukraine is.
I’ll spare you the nauseating quotes from Johnson’s presser with Mr ‘e However, his ‘promise’ is very much noteworthy:
“Mr Johnson confirmed Britain will offer Ukrainian forces a major training programme which would have the capacity to train as many as 10,000 soldiers every 120 days, using battle-proven British Army expertise. […] If accepted by Ukraine, the British scheme would see soldiers learn “battle-winning skills for the front line” in addition to basic medical and cyber-security training and counter-explosive tactics. It would be in a similar vein to Operation Orbital, which saw the UK train more than 22,000 personnel between 2015, the year after the Russian annexation of Crimea, and the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February.” (paywalled link)
Note the word ‘confirmed’, and note the words ‘if accepted’. It turns this visit into nothing but a photo op for Johnson because cynical old me thinks that this ‘support’ must already have been promised during Ben Wallace’s ‘secret visit’ a week ago (link). Perhaps Mr ‘e hadn’t ‘accepted’ this support and needed a buff by BJ? Perhaps other Tory MPs ought to become as infuriated as their Northern colleagues!
Moreover, Johnson’s announcement confirms that we, that NATO, have been training Ukrainian military for years. One wonders if those UK-trained soldiers used their newly-learned expertise by shelling their own people in the Donbas region. It’s something they’ve been doing for all those years after all, and are still doing.
I wonder if all those Northern, former ‘Red Wall’ voters, are happy to let themselves been contemptuously brushed aside for this ‘me too’ photo-op, especially when they learn that their and our taxes are being used in a war while yon PM doesn’t give a toss about their and our living conditions, about our ever increasing tax burden, about inflation and exorbitant home energy costs.
I wonder when MPs and Tory Party members will finally recognise that their support for Johnson ‘because he’s a vote winner’ is misplaced. The reckoning will come on Thursday. However, I can already hear BJ and his spin masters explain away the expected mauling: the ‘Big Dog’ wasn’t there, he had to do PM-things like seeing Mr ‘e, so the defeat ain’t his fault.
This latest Johnson escapade is a vote loser. Who’ll vote for a PM who treats his voters with such contempt! Perhap the observation that Johnson is now afraid of voters is true, else why rush to a sycophantic photo op in Kiev rather than face the Northern peasants who might be ever so slightly critical.
I leave you with the text, the transcript of Mr Putin’s speech yesterday, in English. It’s long. It’s a speech by a PM on top of his agenda, with concrete visions for the future of his country. The contrast to our own PM couldn’t be greater.