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Boris Johnson: the posh populist who’s tuning in to the ‘Brexit blues’

3 15 0

Boris Johnson is used to the sort of media coverage in which he is given a platform to promote himself and paid £275,000 for the privilege – how else to explain his reaction to the first tough questioning he has faced since launching his prime ministerial bid?

At last week’s leadership launch, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg and then Sky’s Beth Rigby asked him about accusations that his campaign was a “chaotic mess” and then about his character. Johnson’s response was not to provide a riposte to the concerns among his former colleagues about whether he is “fit to be prime minister”; it was to laugh at Rigby’s accent. Viewers, most of whom will get no say in who will next run the country, were treated to the very English spectacle of an Old Etonian classicist, who likes to litter his speech with Latin, belittling a state-school educated woman from Essex for the way she said “character”. “Parrot?,” he mocked and his party supporters guffawed as though he were Monty Python.

Hilariously, the man who famously described an absolutely true affair as “an inverted pyramid of piffle” which was “all completely untrue” went on to say that, when he called women in burqas “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” he was merely speaking his mind. The Great British Public don’t want politicians “muffling and veiling our language, not speaking as we find” apparently. When the BBC reminded him of his own previous muffling and veiling – writing one column for and one against Brexit – and asked whether the public could “trust” him, Johnson again raised guffaws by comparing the question to minestrone soup.

It was hard not to feel depressed by this spectacle, particularly as it came only a few hours after a landmark report on the state of the news industry found that trust in the news had fallen two percentage points across all markets, and in the UK that fall reflected a greater sense of powerlessness and negativity. Levels of trust in the UK had fallen by a much higher........

© The Guardian