Thursday 22 March 2018

Only say the word Boris, and they shall be healed

Television review

Boris Johnson. Photo: PA
Boris Johnson. Photo: PA
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

At some point last Wednesday it occurred to me that in Britain, they don't do "the moratorium".

In Ireland we have brought in "the moratorium" on the day before an election or a referendum for a few reasons, such as the desire to let the people think deeply in a media-free environment on the terrible choices which they must make on the morrow, and the fact that saying "the moratorium" makes you sound like a serious person.

They love "the moratorium". It's not necessarily the thing itself that they love, they just love saying it. "The moratorium" has a kind of a built-in grandeur, as if the electorate was being asked to devote a day of sombre reflection to the philosophical differences between Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, rather than Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

So the fact that they don't do it in Britain gave us the chance to assess the effect of the moratorium, whether it makes a significant difference, or perhaps just a small difference, or absolutely no difference at all.

And I think it is clear, that it makes absolutely no difference at all. Except that in some way it advances the project of Official Ireland to make just about everything that they encounter a little less interesting than it might otherwise be.

Not only do the Brits not abstain for the day, they had a Michael Cockerell report on Newsnight, Cockerell being the most highly-regarded maker of political documentaries, the most useful purpose of which is to demonstrate that all the others are clearly doing it wrong.

For Cockerell it's not about politics it's about personalities, and so he presented Brexit as a personal struggle between David Cameron and Boris Johnson, two posh boys who first met at Eton, where they both had this fierce desire to become Prime Minister - which in a progressive society would be an offence in itself, a point so obvious Cockerell didn't need to articulate it.

He put it to Boris, that in the newspaper column for which Boris gets paid £250,000 a year, Boris had made an argument for Brexit, but that he had also submitted an alternative column which was against Brexit, and which Cockerell's sources claimed was more persuasive than the one which was published.

Now there's a lot in that piece of information, indeed there is so much in it, you'd hardly need to know anything else about Boris, or Brexit, or Britain, or indeed the world.

You've got these over-privileged juveniles who never left the debating societies at Eton and Oxford, choosing which argument to adopt, not because they believe in the right or the wrong of it, but by the proverbial toss of the coin.

Boris, bang to rights, did have an answer for Cockerell, which went something like this : "Well ... on the contrary ... the one ... I don't know ... what your conceivable sources for that information may be ... I can tell you seriously, that I decided, it was much better for our country to go out .... perhaps ... what I can say is ... I'll tell you what the second article said ... what it said was ... actually ... ahm ... irrespective of my objections to the way the EU was going, in order to support my Party and the Prime Minister it would be better to stay in .... and I thought in the end that wasn't a good enough reason."

I guess that's why they pay the big bucks, that 250 grand a year which seems to involve some kind of a two-for-the-price-of-one deal, and which in itself stands as a monstrous indictment of an entire way of life.

It was good of Cockerell to insist on mentioning this number, because it tells us, not what Boris is worth, but what he and a very small number of people like him think he is worth, which is a different thing altogether.

These are the sort of people who might also be called "Gove-watchers", a term which describes those who have a deep interest in the doings of Michael Gove, the other main Brexiteer and the man who causes us to ask one of the saddest questions known to humanity: what must it be like, to be a "Gove-watcher?"

But Boris has always been the main man, it all comes together in Boris. They even love saying the word -"Boris".



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