Betrayed, Crisis Point, Glass Houses, The Twits. For anyone studying the shelf behind Boris Johnson as he addressed a group of Year 7s, the message – however covert – seemed clear.
It wasn’t long after the prime minister, who was visiting Castle Rock School in Leicestershire on Wednesday ahead of the start of the autumn term, finished his speech that eagle-eyed viewers started to comment on the apparently aptly-chosen book display.
Can anyone identify the fifth book along on the top shelf? Because apart from that one, top shelf from left to right goes: The Subtle Knife, Fahrenheit 451, Betrayed, The Resistance, The Toll, Crisis Point, Glass Houses, and The Twits. Supreme trolling from the school librarian. pic.twitter.com/z0I2vJValB— Nicholas Pegg (@NicholasPegg) August 26, 2020
The tweet very quickly went viral, and as of Thursday morning had garnered more than 21,000 retweets and 72,000 likes.
The display was also picked up by a number of both specialist and mainstream news outlets. “Boris Johnson and the revenge of the school librarian,” TES headlined their take after a reporter noticed the arrangement, while The Guardian led with “Books seen behind Boris Johnson tell their own story”.
The tweets and stories pretty much all pointed in one direction: the display was likely a passive aggressive message to the prime minister from the school’s librarian themselves.
But while the shelf had been carefully curated by the school’s librarian, it wasn’t ever intended, or even imagined, that it could one day provide a backdrop for the prime minister.
In fact, HuffPost UK can reveal, the display has been in place – apparently unnoticed – for more than six months, and was left by the outgoing librarian as a message to the school’s senior leadership team.
“It’s so bizarre, I actually feel a little bit sorry for the prime minister because it wasn’t ever intended for him – I did it as a message for the school management before I left in February,” the 48-year-old former librarian, who asked not to be named, told HuffPost UK.
“It just became untenable to carry on working there because of the lack of support I had and I was left with no choice but to resign.
“That’s why I decided to leave them a big message during my last week. They obviously never actually noticed, and it went untouched for six months.”
She described the past 24 hours as “a bit weird”, and only realised the books she had put up were still there when her son showed her the picture of the prime minister that had begun to circulate.
She said: “It was a covert message that was plain for all to see, but it turned out that the people I originally did it for didn’t see it – but I think they’ve seen it now.
“The reality is actually a bit of a sadder story. If someone had done it for Boris Johnson that would have been amazing but it’s just a weird twist of fate.
“It was a message for senior management, so I suppose it’s nice that they’ve not finally got it, and if it helps any of the other staff that are still stuck there then all the better.
“Whatever happens, they’ll probably take more notice of the background next time the prime minister does a speech.”
Julia Patrick, CEO of the Apollo Partnership Trust, which took over Castle Rock School as an academy in 2017 said: “The Castle Rock School library has not been used for five months. The senior management there were unaware of any ‘covert message’ left through the arrangement of books.
“The member of staff in question left the school on February 21, 2020.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.