Close watchers of politics are having a very tough time at the moment trying to work out why it is that day after day of rolling horror stories about Boris Johnson and the latest terrible thing he has or hasn’t done or said only seem to make him ever more popular in the polls.
But it’s not that hard to work out. Most people care about one thing alone, and that’s whether things really will get back to normal by 21 June.
Most people like things to be normal, and so events of the last few days and weeks could hardly be more encouraging. Most people have spent the last year with no choice but to impotently watch on as a small clique of particularly idiotic chimpanzees in 10 Downing Street have tried to get to grips with a deadly pandemic that might very well kill them. That the chimpanzees are now all very much back to doing what they do best and just angrily flinging their own excrement at one another is the clearest sign yet that we’re through the worst of it.
We are in to the “he said she said yes you did no I didn’t well you would say that wouldn’t you” phase of the pandemic and, frankly, it’s beautiful. There were no Downing Street death graphs today. No solemn press conferences about saving lives. In its place was just a good, old fashioned, you-know-where-you-stand day of non-denial denials and artlessly crafted bullsh*t of the kind we so dearly miss.
It began with the front page of the Daily Mail, and a claim almost certainly provided by Dominic Cummings, that in a meeting last year Boris Johnson said he “would let the bodies pile high in their thousands” rather than order another lockdown, which he then did order, and the bodies piled high in their thousands regardless.
Did he say it? Well, we don’t know, because the government has both denied it and not denied it. There has been an official, on the record denial. A Downing Street spokesperson described it as “just another lie”. As if the public is so world weary of all the lies that paragon of truth and honesty, Boris Johnson, must face down each day.
At the dispatch box of the House of Commons, Michael Gove was asked if Boris Johnson had said those words. “The idea that you would say any such thing, I find incredible,” came his reply, confirming that the incredible thing being asked was indeed incredible. Then came the next part, by way of clarification. “I was in that room, I never heard language of that kind.”
And there we have it. Nature really is healing. Boris Johnson is being accused of saying appalling things that he may or may not have said but absolutely no one would be surprised if he did. And Michael Gove is very carefully choosing the very perfect form of words that sound like a denial but that actually aren’t.
Does it matter if Boris Johnson said something terrible? He has been firing out openly racist journalism for many decades, littered with openly racist jokes about Muslim women looking like bank robbers and letter boxes. He was the actual foreign secretary when he couldn’t stop himself from making a gag about all the “dead bodies” on beaches in Libya.
Did he say it? Didn’t he say it? The fact that Michael Gove can’t manage to say the very simple words, “no, he didn’t”, means that he probably did. But then again, maybe he didn’t. And if he did, well, it’s years until the next election and he’ll probably say many things far worse than that by then and they won’t weigh a feather in the balance.
So why does Boris Johnson just get ever more popular? Because he is taking the people back to the promised land, that familiar place they have grown to yearn for, especially in this last torturous half decade, where politics is just a tedious, pointless war of tedious pointless words between entirely odious people that they can very easily just ignore. And who better to get them there than good old Boris?