Miles King reimagines Boris Johnson’s latest week.
Imagine the scene. Our fearless prime minister is holed up in his flat above No.11 Downing Street, self-isolating. He’s fuming, having received a message from Dido’s fabulous test ‘n’ trace app that he has been exposed to Covid-19, again.
The perpetrator of infection is none other than hard man of the Blue Wall: Lee “make nuisance council tenants live in a tent, pick spuds and have cold showers” Anderson MP. Photos show Johnson literally cosying up to Anderson, a member of the “common sense” group of culture-warrior Tories, during meetings at Number 10 (indoors, no masks, no 2m distancing).
Johnson has lost two of his closest advisers, Lee Cain and Dominic Cummings, in the space of two days – allegedly at the hand of his fiancée and mother of his xth child. Brexit talks are on the verge of collapse, with warnings of food shortages in January. Covid-19 deaths are heading back towards the horrifying heights reached at the peak of the first wave.
What can he do to create a diversion? He rummages through the pockets of his suit jacket to find – where is it? Cripes! Ah yes! That 10-point climate plan he wrote on the back of an envelope, when Dom was out of the room for a minute. He takes a quick screenshot of the crumpled manila and sends it over to his new press chief with the message:
“Get this in the papers pronto!”
A reply comes back by return. “Write me 500 words in the next half hour. I’ve had to pull in a few favours but the FT has said they’ll run it as an Op Ed. Allegra.”
This is what Johnson is good at. Seat-of-the-pants stuff. Biggles flies again! The creative juices start flowing.
He thinks about making a few calls to… to whom? Lee? Dom? No, probably best not. They might deliberately feed him rubbish. He shouts down the stairs to Carrie. She knows about green stuff.
“Carrie! When did we say we’d get rid of cars??” His mind drifts back to his early days as a motoring hack, ah happy days…. then takes a darker turn as he recalls the weeks when he was living in his car after Marina had kicked him out.
But he’s brought back to the present with a jolt as he remembers Marcus Rashford. He’s still bristling with indignation at having been shown up by Marcus Rashford (a footballer, and not even the proper kind of football) over the school meals thing.
“Marcus Rashford… hmm, yes, he’s got a really expensive car hasn’t he. Can we ban them right now, this minute?” Johnson wonders.
But that would also annoy all of his mates, including the ones that keep him in power and help with his expenses. What else can he do? He has an idea.
“Carrie – can we rewild all the football pitches?”
“Electric cars – check. Hydrogen – check. Carbon capture – check.” His mind is zinging.
He recalls a discussion with some scientist – not the Covid-19 ones. Before that. Did he remember it right?
“Coal came out of the ground and when burnt, made CO₂ which caused polar bears to die.”
“YES – pump polar bears back into coal mines! Brilliant!”
“Zero gravity planes – check. No, wait a minute, that’s not right. Who was it who flew across the Atlantic first – Alcock and something. Now why would I remember that name? Oh yes. Alcock and Brown, must get that in the article somewhere, hee hee.”
“Zero emissions planes, that’s it.”
“Better mention trees, keep the hairies happy.”
“Why did Dom hate trees? Never understood that. Ah well….”
His mind wanders again.
He sits back, laptop in one hand, glass of something nice in the other. Ha! Another salvo fired at Brussels in the war against the Euro, or is it the EU? It’s all so damn confusing. Oh, no. That was a while ago. God, I’m still PM. Where did it all go wrong….
Allegra texts again. “We need more than just the FT piece. Something’s got to go on the .gov website, otherwise it just looks like you’ve put out another ill-thought-through piece of lazy journalism, as a shoddy attempt to create a distraction from the last piece of tawdry, ill- thought-through writing.”
Johnson is tired. Maybe he has got Covid-19 again. At least he wouldn’t have to hide in a fridge this time. He zooms his new press chief.
“Look, Allegra, can you just write something for .gov, cribbing off what I’ve done for the FT? You’re a top hack, it won’t take you long… something like “Greenest-Prime-Minister- ever launches new Industrial Revolution for the North and the other bits where there are new Tory MPs, creating a million new jobs….”
Stratton isn’t amused.
“They’ll think you’re taking the p***. We’ll go with
Johnson looks crestfallen. “Only 250,000? OK… but only if we keep that bit about rewilding football pitches in.”