Boris Johnson: The Jose Mourinho of British politics

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 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

Last night in the Commons was a bit of a pre-Brexit throwback. Stephen Barclay, former Brexit Secretary and now Minister for the Cabinet Office faced off against his then shadow and one-time second referendum supporter Keir Starmer.

The subject was sleaze and standards, but one person was conspicuous by his absence: Boris Johnson. In fairness, he wasn’t in Kabul (that was to avoid the Heathrow third runway vote in 2018).

Nor was he in Toronto (during the 2011 London riots). Instead, he was visiting a Northumberland hospital and only sometimes wearing a face mask.

In a solid bit of opposition research, Labour provided a handy list illustrating how Johnson had travelled around the world to avoid difficult moments.

Far be it for me to provide comms advice to the Labour Party, but had they turned this list into a graph or GIF, I think it would have flown.

While the erosion of the Tory poll lead, as revealed yesterday, is one thing, what may worry Johnson more is the fall in his personal ratings.

All leaders yearn to be popular, and in a liberal democracy (relative) popularity is hardly parenthetical to success. Yet it may be especially critical for Boris Johnson. And not simply because of his outsized need to be liked.

Much as Tony Blair did, Johnson has a somewhat transactional relationship with his party. They don’t necessarily love or admire him, but they do like the results. 2016 EU referendum: won. 2019 general election: overall majority.

His situation is a bit like that of a Premier League manager known for their soporific football style but one that comes with success (think Jose Mourinho, Rafa Benitez or for a real throwback, George Graham). When they’re winning, everything is fine. But once the results deteriorate, there is little goodwill to fall back on.

Elsewhere in the paper, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that Covid vaccines will be made compulsory for frontline NHS staff, although not until next year.

In the comment pages, from hot tubs to musical instruments and gym kits, Phoebe Luckhurst wonders: what does your regrettable lockdown purchase say about you?

Meanwhile, Melanie McDonagh responds to Rosamund Pike’s comments on male nudity. It is not to be missed.

And finally, we have discovered the quintessential pandemic-proof business. Cake Box, the egg-free bakery that launched in the East End in 2008 in the midst of the global recession, has just reported pre-tax half-year profits up 122%. Evidence that in any crisis, people want cake.

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