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Just over four years ago I met Stanley Johnson at a book launch. In my write up of the encounter, I described him as the “the charming father of boorish Boris, the Brexiteer.”
We got on rather well after I told him I worked for a Labour MP who was playing a leading role in the Remain campaign.
“It’s up to you in the Labour Party to save us,” he told me. I was too polite to reply: “From your son, you mean?”
Johnson senior describes himself as a lifelong “Europeanist”. He was a Tory MEP and also worked in the European Commission. He had concluded that his son may have made a “career ending choice” by backing Brexit. That, of course, turned out to be wrong.
Johnson senior can be relied on to embarrass his boy from time to time. Just after the Prime Minister imposed the lockdown, he told an incredulous television interviewer he would go to the pub “if he needed to”.
Now, as the Mail reports, he jetted “to his Greek mountain-top villa (via Bulgaria) in flagrant disregard of his own son's 'essential travel only' rules.” Not quite on a par with a trip to Barnard Castle, but further evidence that the Johnson gang reckon there’s one rule for them and another for the rest of us.
While we are on the subject of unhelpful family members, how about this from Gove’s spouse Sarah Vine. She told Mail readers “After months of lockdown I’m desperate for any sense of normality. And what better sign that Britain is getting back to normal could there be than a load of Saturday-night drunks clogging up A&E?”
Just in case anyone took her seriously, the Prime Minister turned up in the Downing Street briefing room and “pleaded with drinkers not to wreck the progress made in tackling coronavirus by indulging in "reckless behaviour" when pubs reopen tomorrow.”
Johnson’s tongue-tied performance brought to mind John Crace’s comment about a previous PM outing: “Forget the Churchill tribute act; these days Boris couldn’t even get a job as a Boris Johnson tribute act.”
And as Paul Waugh of Huffington Post observes, there is an “unsavoury irony looming this weekend. As the pubs open their doors, the Houses of Parliament will be among tens of national landmarks lighting up in blue to celebrate the 72nd birthday.”
The NHS anniversary could, he says, have been marked with landmark investment in public health and pandemic planning, and pay uplift for NHS staff. “Instead of just a Clap For Carers how about Cash For Carers.” That sounds like a good campaigning theme for Team Starmer.
By Don Brind - Labour Movement for Europe Press Officer & Former BBC political correspondent
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