Simon Rushton By: Simon Rushton
Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations
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23 Jun 2020 : Statues, Tim Tams, Marmite

I can’t remember now who wrote it, but a few months ago I read an insightful piece that argued that Boris Johnson doesn’t actually want to be Prime Minister. It’s too much like hard work. But he does want to have been Prime Minister. This explains a lot about recent events in the UK: it’s a statue of himself that he wants, not the late nights and difficult decisions.

Today, the Prime Minister made a rare appearance in the House of Commons to announce a dramatic easing of the lockdown restrictions for England. The social distancing guidelines have been reduced from 2m to 1m, more businesses (including pubs) will be able to reopen, and overnight stays in other people’s houses are now allowed. This was all wrapped up in Johnson’s usual (but mystifying for anyone who actually lives here) belief in ‘the common sense of the British public’ [NB he did say British public, presumably either not knowing or not caring that his comments related only to England]. 

The other thing that Johnson announced was the end of the daily press briefings. The message was clear (and confirmed what had been leaked widely in the newspapers over the weekend): Johnson is now bored of COVID-19 and, as far as he is concerned, it is over. His attention (such that it is) has moved on to securing the trade deals that will, he promises, allow the UK to prosper after the Brexit transition period ends. He has already been talking to the Australians and has pledged to reduce the tariffs on the overrated Aussie biscuits called ‘Tim Tams’ (something he could have done without leaving the EU if he’d wanted to). He muttered something about trading Marmite for Vegemite. To ensure that he can secure similar brilliant deals around the world, he is spending £1 million repainting his plane with the union flag – a move that is certain to ensure foreign trade negotiators immediately acquiesce to the UK’s demands.

Johnson is banking on this distraction tactic working – and hoping against hope that there won’t be a resurgence of the virus. With the exception of some US states, nowhere else has tried to end the lockdown with such a high number of daily cases and deaths. While predicting the precise impact of this easing is genuinely difficult, it’s not hard to make an educated guess.

Has anyone previously commissioned a statue designed not to be put on a plinth, but to be rolled immediately to the nearest harbour and pushed over the edge?

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