Entertainment

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Michael Morpurgo slams ‘reprehensible’ Boris Johnson and ‘shouters’ in politics

The author said his new book is a response to a lack of humanity and civility.

Michael Morpurgo (Ian West/PA)
Michael Morpurgo (Ian West/PA)

By Laura Harding, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent

Sir Michael Morpurgo has blasted “reprehensible” Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he said it is the “shouters” who have risen to the top in politics.

The children’s author, best known for penning books such as War Horse and Private Peaceful, said the lack of civility shown in the House of Commons has made people feel empowered to shout and spit at each other in the streets.

He told the PA news agency: “The thing that is really sad for me about Boris Johnson is here is someone who is hugely intelligent, who has received certainly an extraordinarily privileged education, like mine, he can’t be blamed for that, but it’s what he’s done with it that I find reprehensible.”

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson (David Mirzoeff/PA)

He added: “By and large you have this great feeling of arrogance coming from him and the people around him and this self-righteousness and also this despising of people who don’t share their views.

“There are good people, you can see in all the parties across all the divides, really extraordinary people in the Labour party, the Tory party, Lib Dems, Greens, there’s some good people, it’s just they are not rising to the top and it’s the shouters who are getting to the top and attracting attention.”

Sir Michael’s new book, Boy Giant, is a retelling of Gulliver’s Travels told through the eyes of Omar, a young Afghan refugee trying to get to England who is washed up on the shores of a strange island, and is a depiction of kindness and civility, which he says is a response to the state of modern discourse.

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Boy Giant (Harper Collins)

He said: “I do feel that there is an edge now to the dislike and the bitterness which was not there before and an enabling, which has come through the way people speak publicly.

“We are allowed to say what we like regardless of how much we hurt other people, that has come to a large extent from the absurd way that people conduct debates in the House of Commons.

“It has come also from our social media and the way we can flash our opinions about the place without being seen to care what we say about other people, using language which is extraordinarily bitter and angry.

“And then people flash back and before you know it the thing is heightened and heightened and heightened.

“We raise these things up and all the spectres come out then and all the old enmities rise to the surface and we are able to shout at them in the street and we are able to spit at people and we are able to wave our flags and be unpleasant to one another and the sight of a female MP walking down the street with people around her, yelling at her, pushing her, shoving her.”

Sir Michael added his book was inspired by Jonathan Swift’s own feelings of distress about the world when it was published in 1726, saying: “As the great man himself wrote Gulliver’s Travels, he was waging a war of words on the world around him and how he saw it and I felt we hadn’t moved on much.

“I just feel at the present moment we are living through a time of witnessing massive inhumanity to man and it puzzles me because being the age I am, it’s come as a bit of a shock at the age of  76 that I have children and I have grandchildren, who (I thought) are being born into a world which is becoming progressively more humane and more thoughtful, to find that increasingly this seems not to be the case.”

However, Sir Michael said he still has confidence in young people and was particularly inspired by the recent climate strike.

“I put a  lot of hope in the fact there has been now a huge surge in education across the world and these are the people who are coming through and they have an enormously early understanding of the world and of the important things that are going on.

“They are enormously critical but they are extraordinarily positive and they are very brave.”

Boy Giant, published by Harper Collins, is out now.

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