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Smokescreens And Stagecraft - Boris' Johnson's Latest Political Gaffe

20/01/2017 13:56
Michael Sohn/AP

This week, Theresa May unveiled her 12 point Brexit plan in a speech stating "every stray word and every hyped-up media report" would make a favourable deal harder to achieve. She followed by pointedly remarking 'discipline' would be maintained by ministers in her Government. Merely a day passed before foreign secretary Boris Johnson's behaviour displayed the opposite, warning French President Francois Hollande not to "administer punishment beatings... in the manner of some World War Two Movie".

Unsurprisingly comparison of President Hollande to a Nazi prison guard met sharp criticism; MEP Guy Verhofstadt called Johnson's comments "abhorrent & deeply unhelpful" and former Labour leader Ed Miliband labelled him unfit "to be Foreign Secretary". Downing Street have defended Johnson insisting he "was not in any way suggesting anyone was a Nazi" and that his remarks were a "theatrical comparison". Regardless considering he made a World War II Nazi analogy during the referendum campaign, anger and sensitivity over his poor choice of words are understandable; especially when due thought is given to the severity of World War II and the EU's creation a direct result of its aftermath. At best I find it surprising he could make such an ill chosen comment unwittingly and without comprehension of the outcome.

I therefore pose a question, could Boris Johnson's latest case of foot in mouth syndrome be a smokescreen to divert attention away from the Government's Brexit plans? I am in no way suggesting any collusion between the foreign secretary and the Prime minister regarding his latest colourful language however one cannot help acknowledge how great a diversion it is. Boris Johnson's back catalogue of political insults and gaffes are readily available for all to hear and see; a mere google search will provide ample material.
Theresa May is no fool, noted for her serious nature, analytical mind and an obsession for detail, her decision to make him head of the country's diplomatic service was not an oversight. Aware of her foreign secretary's thirst for the limelight, employing the party court jester for all things 'theatrical', performing and insulting on cue is political stagecraft at its finest.

After labelling Johnson 'crass' and 'clueless' Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Fallon noted the incident was taking focus away from the Prime Minister taking us out of the single market. Despite labelling the government an "utter shambles" the focus remains on Boris' words, instead of further analysis into how exiting a market nearing 500 million people will leave us more prosperous. Nor has there been proportionate critical scrutiny into a 12 point plan that essentially tells us no more than "Brexit will be red, white and blue".

This is hardly surprising when you consider the UK is dominated by pro Brexit and right leaning newspapers unable to see beyond the jubilation of closed borders and enough 'bendy banana's to give us potassium poisoning. Our broadcasters (thanks to OFCOM) report the news with relative accuracy, yet will happily forfeit further examination for scandalous footage in the belief catchy soundbites make for attention grabbing entertaining news.

Combine this with opposition party leaders unable to command media attention, near universally maligned or in the case of the largest opposition leader, both. Jeremy Corbyn's apathy towards the EU is well known. The first PMQ's since her speech left Theresa May swaggering tall after unpicking Corbyn's own muddling comments regarding market access post EU membership instead of answering his question on how she will ensure we do not become a low tax "bargain basement" deregulated economy leaving a large number of the population with precarious rights and wages should we leave the EU without a deal. Labour's frustrating inability to function cohesively as a party let alone effectively scrutinise the Government's EU exit plan leaves us in a dangerous situation.

Theresa May will be left to 'dependably get on with the job at hand' free from considered objections and legitimate concerns to decisions that will affect us all. Our futures are being gambled on with little more than a cursory look and we will have only ourselves to blame if we are left with rubble after the smokescreen clears.

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