should i know who david brent is, first?

Boris Johnson is trying to meme himself
Joel Golby, Groon, Nov 15 2019

The Boris Johnson campaign video that’s led to David Brent comparisons

Ah, I suppose this was always doomed to happen, wasn’t it. For years we’ve been training ourselves to speak the language of the internet until it became something close to our mother tongue, and all those basic little toddler sounds we used to make, such as All Your Base Are Belong To Us, longcat is long, Badger Badger Mushroom, are now a whole meme-as-language that worms through our brains like a parasite. So when Boris Johnson marches out of a fire escape in soft focus and gets interrogated sight unseen, then you know what it is, don’t you, it’s a knock-off of Vogue’s 73 Questions, but with the Actual PM of the UK in it instead of, say, Selena Gomez. I first paused at 0:13, and had to go outside and hold the bridge of my nose for a while before I could go back to it. See if you can last any longer, but be aware that there are no prizes for doing so. Insights gleaned: Boris Johnson starts his day by taking his dog for a shit; he can’t get Thai curry ordered to No 10 any more in case someone runs “Michael Winner interference” on it first; he segued directly from the question “fish and chips or Sunday roast?” to “why are we having this election?” without blinking; his favourite band is either the Clash or the Rolling Stones. Admittedly I might be still in conspiracy mode because of BBC #Wreathgate earlier this week but, judging by the timing, the calamitous pauses, the way Johnson responds as if grappling with a satellite delay, plus the contrasting audio qualities, and I’m pretty certain the voice asking the questions was overdubbed to make it lean working-class.

Oh god, it’s still going: he likes Marmite, he made steak and oven chips last night, he can still make broad-sweeping arm gestures and talk about Brexit while loitering in the corridor by the office toilets. Workers behind him stare rigidly at computers as if they’ve had to patiently act as human furniture in multiple takes as a production team walks backwards through their campaign office asking Boris Johnson about referenda. He makes tea like this: boiling water tap, milk in with the bag, no stirring, no taking the bag out. From that alone, I have seen into the very soul of the man, and I’m not sure I liked it. But to be fair, this is taking keen advantage of Johnson’s strength, which is that he’s an assured public speaker who nevertheless always seems on the edge of saying “pimbly pombly,” and who somehow convinces swaths of the voting public that he’s Just Like You because he stutters occasionally, and knows what a microwave is. Compare and contrast Theresa May’s one attempt at seeming human (remember when she confessed, as if admitting to a string of murders, about lightly tamping down some wheat) and he’s light years ahead. He softballed NHS investment policy, his manifesto on police spending and Tough Brexit Talk into a fun video about Marmite and shitting dogs. He’s played an absolute blinder.

For those paying attention at the back, you’ll know that this now puts pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to come out fighting with his own internet-adjacent video that co-opts the visual language of the youth and tricks them into caring about inclusive ownership funds. I’m intrigued to see where Labour HQ goes with it. Best I can see it is this: Jeremy Corbyn eats a succession of increasingly spicycauliflower hot wings opposite a nodding Owen Jones, frantically sweating through his jumper while trying to talk about nurses’ wages; Corbyn delivers the entire Labour manifesto as a 45-minute ASMR roleplay on the lines of “You Are The Workers & I Am Ending Austerity,” or my personal preference, which is Corbyn waving to a camera mounted inside a ringlight and letting a 22-year-old makeup vlogger give him a makeover: full face, full lashes. Blows a big mwah at the end as a “Register To Vote!” call to action drops on screen. And this is all way before Jo Swinson gets on TikTok. The race to the bottom starts now.

Other things to hate or enjoy – delete as appropriate

Unlikely anyone’s said this before, but I think Matt Hancock might be one to watch this election cycle. He seems to have taken the selfie video cue from Rory Stewart’s leadership campaign (Stewart looking increasingly terrified as he shook hands with members of the public and offered anyone hard enough out for a debate in the middle of Kew Gardens) and run with it. This week’s video, an unblinking 11-second performance in which he threatens to tell Southampton about NHS investment with the uneasy air of someone being forced to recount his kind treatment at the hands of his captors, is still dwarfed by last week’s attempt: Hancock in the blustering dawn cold, saying “It’s Yorkshire, it’s before seven in the morning, it’s raining … and we’re ready to go!”, like a failed Top Gear presenter open audition reel, but I think we’ll have plenty more efforts from him before Dec 12 looms.

Mike Gapes – the man with the defeated air of someone who has been turned away from a city centre Laser Quest because “you can’t play on your own here, mate, that’s weird,” has released his campaign poster this week which is basically just a red and yellow Labour campaign poster with a small disclaimer at the bottom to remind voters that he defected to the party now known as “The Independent Group For Change,” and also a bizarrely heartbreaking call to arms in the top right corner reading: “It will really help me if you display this poster in your window. Thank you.” I don’t know why, but the polite thin desperation of this actually makes me weepingly sad. Gapes, politely asking that you display his campaign poster in your window, thanks, for as long as it takes for someone to report him for misrepresentation to the Electoral Commission and he sadly has to go round all the shops and houses in Ilford, and ask that they take them down.

Johnson’s sputtering tour of Britain makes Theresa May look like an expert campaigner
Mark Steel, Independent, Nov 16 2019

Theresa May must be loving this. If you recall, she made an impressive start to her election campaign, when she announced her vote-winning policy that if you had dementia, she’d take your house away. This wasn’t as popular as she’d hoped, which is a shame, as she was probably hoping to add “and we’ll raise much-needed funds by charging them twice, as they’ll have forgotten they’ve paid already.” But Boris Johnson’s campaign is even classier. So Kwasi Kwarteng revealed exactly how much Labour’s plans would cost, with statements such as:

They are planning to spend £31,675,908,430.69 amounting to £45.68 per person every 12 minutes, 14 pence for every ant in the world, or £4,587.39 for every cornflake.

Then he was asked how much his own party’s plans would cost, and said “I’m not here to give specific figures.” It was a fair answer, as he was claiming Labour would spend £1.2 trillion, which he worked out by adding all the money anyone who’d voted Labour had ever spent, including in dreams, and all the money a Labour government would spend if it was in power for 8,000 years, assuming they’d appointed Kanye West as chancellor. So there was no time left to work out their own spending plans. In their manifesto, under “the economy,” they’ll probably put: “Life’s too short to worry about money. Something will turn up, it usually does.” But Johnson is the master of attention to detail. He was filmed in Northern Ireland explaining his Brexit deal with these exact words:

When you come out of the um, er, customs union, which is what we’ve done, you have to have some way of checking goods that might attract a tariff coming from the United Kingdom into er, er, Ireland pay that tariff, if there is to be a tariff.

If only Labour were able to explain their Brexit policy this clearly and simply. It could provide a solution to the Irish border after Brexit, if Johnson sits at customs explaining those rules to everyone coming in or out of the country. Within a week the entire population would be in the middle of Ireland, facing in opposite directions, unable to move as everyone borrowed change from each other to pay a tariff that might attract a tariff, er, er, if there is to be a tariff, and a wonderful sense of community would emerge. This sort of speech may be the reason he’s kept away from everywhere. He’s hardly been seen in public, and won’t take part in a debate about climate change, which is understandable, as the continued existence of the planet is too small an issue to bring into the election. None of them dare go to the flooded areas. If they do, it’s usually much too late. It makes sense not to go, because if Jacob Rees-Mogg went, he’d tell some poor sod in Doncaster who’s canoed out of their upstairs bedroom window:

Shame about the lower floors, but at least it’s only your servants drowning down there.

Even in an interview filmed by the Conservative Party, where the bits chosen to go out must be the most coherent, Johnson mumbles that his favourite band is The Clash, whose drummer called himself Tory Crimes, who howled with rage about how people like Johnson are “working for the clampdown.” I suppose it was between them and Rage Against the Machine. This week, the prime minister even announced he would call Corbyn an “onanist,” of actually masturbating with the economy. This is why Johnson is kept out of sight, because most things he says are posh gibberish with sprinkles of Latin so we assume it makes sense. In the TV debate, he’ll answer a question about interest rates by saying:

Ah, what we HAVE is a CORNUCOPIA of ad hominem, a CHOICE, er … er … er … er … between VIGOUR, a CAVALCADE inter alia prima facie etcetera, in vino veritas or Jeremy Corbyn MASTURBATING all over Her Majesty the Queen, if there is a tariff.

Last time Theresa May sent Amber Rudd to do the TV debate, but all the Amber Rudd-types have gone, so their best move might be to send a pet such as Mark Francois’ Doberman, or one of Rees-Mogg’s coy carp. One issue the Tories might be ahead on is racism, because their Muslim ex-party chair Sayeeda Warsi says the party is institutionally racist and “failed to tackle racism at any level.” At the same time, many people say Labour is still complacent over anti-Semitism in the party, because they’re holding an investigation into the issue. So the Conservatives have learned from that, and decided that as holding an investigation is inadequate, they’ll be much more thorough and not bother looking into it at all. So they have candidates such as Anthony Browne, who wrote that immigration costs lives by “letting in too many germs.” It’s an interesting theory, that all germs are foreign. You’d have thought scientists may have spotted this before, that everyone in Pakistan is constantly sneezing, but thankfully Browne has worked it out, though he’s now excused because he said he was being “deliberately provocative.” And this is a reasonable excuse, that he wasn’t like the awful people who are foul out of ignorance, he did it on purpose knowing exactly how foul he was being. But at least the press is even-handed about incidents like this between all the parties. Similarly, when Johnson put his wreath upside-down by mistake on Remembrance Sunday, there was barely a mention in the media. And it would have been exactly the same if Corbyn had done the same, except every front page headline would have said:

Corbyn DELIBERATELY does an elongated runny poo on Winston Churchill’s head, attracting flies that eat the Cenotaph costing the taxpayer £1.2 trillion.

The election is affecting my mental health, but at least I’m not Dilyn the dog
John Crace, Guardian, Nov 15 2019 (extract)

Barking truth to power … Dilyn (held by Carrie Symonds).
Photo: John Nguyen/AFP

Thursday – The election continues to take its toll on my mental health. And, I suspect, that of the country. So far this week I have been out in London with the Lib Dems, in Blackpool with Labour, in Coventry with the Tories and in Hull with the Brexit party, and my over-riding impression is that the voters don’t really want any of the parties on offer. No one really believes Jo Swinson when she says she is going to be prime minister, hardcore Brexiters feel sold out by Nigel Farage, Jeremy Corbyn isn’t trusted, and even Conservative supporters admit that Boris Johnson is a liar. Six years ago, membership of the EU just wasn’t an issue apart from for a tiny minority of the country. Now Brexit has split the entire UK with no signs of anyone being able to heal the divisions. Politics has never felt so toxic or binary. I’ve always taken the view that the political sketch should be an equal opportunities column. A chance to satirise and, on rare occasions, to praise politicians on all sides and to call out hypocrisy, lies and incompetence wherever I find it. Increasingly, though, I find that some readers expect me to be a cheerleader and to ignore anything that might be slightly problematic for the Labour party. This week, I observed that Corbyn seemed to have lost some of his campaigning edge of 2017 and that it wasn’t enough to be just remembered as the plucky underdog who did better than expected. Having great policies is pointless if you never get to implement them. Corbyn may have seen off three prime ministers, but the Tories would be more than happy for him to see off three more if it meant Labour staying out of office for another 10 years. But no one gets to take my vote or sketch for granted.

Friday – Spare a thought for Tory candidate Mims Davies. A while ago she wrote to her constituents in the marginal seat of Eastleigh, telling them that it was with deep sadness that she was standing down as their MP in order to spend more time with her children. Just this week, she has re-emerged from her family to win the nomination for the safe Conservative seat of Mid Sussex. Davies professed herself “profoundly shocked” to have been selected. Presumably her letter putting herself forward wrote itself. Eastleigh must be so proud of her. Many other constituencies have also had candidates forced on them by both the Tory and Labour high commands despite the local associations having wanted someone else. So against all the general shabbiness and backroom stitch-ups, it’s good to be able to honour one of the election’s unsung heroes. Step forward, Dilyn the Downing Street dog. Poor Dilyn has been taken out several times by Carrie Symonds on the campaign trail and each time he has looked thoroughly miserable. Photographed in Richmond with Zac Goldsmith, Dilyn couldn’t have appeared more desperate. “How could you take me out with a man who ran such a racist campaign for London mayor?” he barked. Out with Theodora Clarke, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s niece, in Stafford, Dilyn had to be restrained from running off, and on the train to Bristol he was pictured looking longingly out the window, begging someone to call the RSPCA and have him rehoused. Dilyn alone speaks truth to power.

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