Thursday 17 January 2019

Bryan Dobson proves more than a match for Boris Johnson's slippery schtick at Pendulum Summit

Boris Johnson speaking to Bryan Dobson at the Pendulum Summit 2019 at the Convention Centre in Dublin.
Pic Steve Humphreys
Boris Johnson speaking to Bryan Dobson at the Pendulum Summit 2019 at the Convention Centre in Dublin. Pic Steve Humphreys

Nicola Anderson

Paddy Ashdown was the last British politician rated by John Cleese as "one of the good guys".

The legendary comedian does not appear to rate Boris Johnson. And so he was not overly regretful that a slight hearing difficulty had prevented him from following Boris's presentation at the Pendulum Summit from backstage. But Boris had said nothing anyway, we told him.

"There, you see - that's the problem," said Cleese triumphantly, his point about British politicians proven.

It's not as if there was any hidden comedy gold that the 'Fawlty Towers' star might have mined from Boris's Q&A with RTÉ'S Bryan Dobson.

Comedy it was, certainly, but it was far too shoddy, too transparent and far too calculated.

Actually, it was just far too much Boris, the former London mayor dangling from a zipwire brandishing a tired Union Jack. We've seen his jaded schtick a million times. Enough. Just, enough.

Boris Johnson at the Pendulum Summit in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Boris Johnson at the Pendulum Summit in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys

He had promised Pendulum Summit founders Frankie Sheahan and Norma Murphy that he would be "honest" in his answers. Honest? Does Boris even know how?

Midway through a question from Dobson about whether he knew the value of Northern Ireland exports to the Republic, the prominent Brexiteer snatched the presenter's notes, after feebly replying: "It can only go up."

Boris then appeared to attempt to bully the veteran broadcaster, scanning his notes with the comment: "Heavily scripted, this."

If this had been Boris attempting to be cutesy and roguish, it backfired.

Dobson won the round, with the magnificently grown-up retort: "I'll let you keep that. You might find it useful."

The audience of 3,000 roared in appreciation.

Boris arrived at the Convention Centre in Dublin and, clearly mindful of his fee, posed for multiple 'grip and grin' photographs with Diamond ticket holders looking as meek as a little lamb, all shorn with his new haircut, though still classically rumpled.

Like a Hollywood star Boris had rules - there was to be no filming of his presentation.

Slippery as always, perhaps he wanted the opportunity to row back if things didn't go his way.

He arrived on stage to the cheesy beats of the 'Final Countdown' and launched into an argument about why the mayor was the hero of the movie 'Jaws' because he "kept the beaches open" so that local shops could do business.

As a Brexit analogy, it was probably unfortunate.

He babbled along, openly confessing that he was trying to run the clock down so that he couldn't be nobbled by "this man Bryan".

There was an interesting yarn about how his plane had been delayed because the pilot said they were still loading 600 ducklings, being exported from the UK to Ireland.

A wiser person might have seen a lesson in this on why it might be important to avoid a hard Brexit - but Boris just saw the opportunity to make a few cheap cracks about how we can "get our ducks in order" and how anyone who denies it is "quackers".

When Dobson appeared on stage, Boris visibly blanched. The jig was up. He was an exasperating, unruly interviewee, that much was clear. Dobson had to shout over him at times. We learned nothing.

But then, that's exactly what Boris intended.

Irish Independent

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business