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Silly season 2019 is officially cancelled

24 Jul 2019  |  Raymond Snoddy 
Silly season 2019 is officially cancelled

With a gaffe prone PM steering the country towards a no deal Brexit, what is usually the doldrums of the holiday season will now deliver stories by the bucket-load, writes Ray Snoddy

With Boris Johnson it’s best to start with the cartoonists, or as the Americans call the cartoon sections – the funnies.

The Daily Telegraph effort isn’t bad. Their man is shown half way out of shedding his jester outfit and heading towards the Royal ermine with the legend "Dude" emblazoned on the back.

Perhaps The Times is a little heavy-handed with a nightmarish Johnson breaking into Number 10 Downing Street with an axe accompanied by a “He-e-ere’s Johnson” caption.

But the newspaper that captures the sheer absurdity, and seriousness, of it all is far away in Germany.

The Stuttgarter Nachrichten cartoon could not be more simple. It is framed at each side by two wisps of hair slightly intruding into the picture. Two enormous Pinocchion noses almost meet in the middle and the bubbles read - “Hi Boris” and “Hi Donald.”

A volume of comment is conveyed in the most basic of drawings.

It’s not even a joke, because President Donald J.Trump has confirmed what many Britons suspected all along: that Boris Johnson is “Britain’s Trump.”

Who could ever have doubted it?

Humour is the first and perhaps only way to cope with the appointment of Boris Johnson as the UK’s 55th Prime Minister and that’s the way he designed it to be.

Johnson arrived with jokes and pre-cooked headlines, as you would expect, and the Boris loyal press lapped them up.

The most dramatic front page comes appropriately from The Daily Telegraph, which has kept Johnson in red wine as a columnist during the long months of exile.

“I’m the dude” goes the headline, which comes with a helpful asterisk explaining that the leader will Deliver Brexit, Unite the Country, Defeat Corbyn and Energise Britain.

The huge picture covering almost the entire front page captures the shambolic, sub-Churchillian moment when Johnson salutes with one hand and gives a thumbs-up with the other.

The V sign was obviously considered a gesture too far.

The Sun played with the Dude theme to make it "Hey Dude! Don’t Make it Bad", while the Daily Mail seemed to suffer from heat-stroke with the enormity of it all and asked the new PM to “Bring Us Sunshine”.

Stretching the reference to breaking point, Boris shares the front page with the late Eric Morecambe who allegedly strikes a “similar pose” when the real funny man is doing no such thing.

The Daily Mirror goes for a sourer brand of humour by ripping off the cover of the 1,500th issue of Private Eye with four pictures of B. Johnson doing ridiculous things under the headline, “Boris Johnson, Prime Minister. It’s Really Not Funny Any More..”.

With the time for jokes almost over, seriously what will the Johnson Premiership mean for the media?

First and foremost, any thought of there being a silly season this year – at least in the conventional sense - has been instantly banished.

There will be stories by the bucket-load and compared with the dull realm of Theresa May, Planet Boris is likely to be a colourful place.

Jealous hacks, who will never make it to Downing Street, will bring out their most sensitive gaffe detectors and will be waiting to pounce.

For the tabloids there will be the running speculation of when Carrie will bowl up at Downing Street – or at the very least come in by the back door.

More serious fellows are already at work speculating on when the next general election will be.

A few more copies of newspapers may even be sold in what is usually the doldrums of the holiday season.

The buccaneering Mr Johnson is unlikely to adopt any moves that would limit press freedom so there is at least no chance of life after death for Leveson 2.

Alongside Brexit there has also already been a promise to bring high speed Broadband to every home in Britain whether they want it or not. We can safely assume that is a promise that will not be kept, although admittedly no October 31st deadline was attached.

Far more importantly, conventional wisdom suggests that the point of the Boris Johnson project was for him to become Prime Minister and that there is absolutely no plan for what should happen next.

The Johnson Premiership amounts to a tabula rasa - to reach for an appropriate classical reference.

Naturally the entire journalistic community is now keen to fill the successful journalist’s blank slate with what Boris should do next.

The trouble is the advice, beyond giving us sunshine and optimism, covers the entire spectrum and is bewilderingly contradictory.

Sherelle Jacobs in the Daily Telegraph warns that if Boris does not deliver Brexit to the country by Halloween, he will be gone by Christmas.

The Sun wants Boris to appoint a radical Chancellor who will cut both personal taxes and corporation tax while simultaneously increasing spending on defence, 20,000 more police officers and infrastructure, while finding “solutions” on education, social care and building “millions” of affordable homes.

Maybe such a Chancellor should not just be radical but also a qualified member of the Magic Circle.

There is contradictory advice on whether or not Johnson should go for an immediate general election, often within the pages of the same paper.

The Daily Telegraph leader argues everything must now be focussed on delivering Brexit by October 31.

On the page opposite, Philip Johnston tells his near namesake to strike immediately with a general election designed to get a majority large enough to govern and deliver Brexit.

By going early Boris would “neutralise the betrayal narrative” being prepared by Nigel Farage if he fails to take the UK out as promised by the end of October.

The Times leader is a bit on the unhelpful side, concluding with more elegance than clarity that Europe comes before everything else and that “the only way to avoid a funeral oration is for Mr Johnson to find the answer that has eluded his predecessors, to answer the vexatious question to which he owes his elevation to the highest office.”

Times columnist Danny Finkelstein is more blunt with his advice. Call a snap election in the next month rather than waiting to be forced into one later.

Boris Johnson may have refused to be interviewed by the Today programme on Radio 4 but he should have been listening to accomplished pollster Sir John Curtice before he does anything rash.

We are in unchartered territory of a four-party system, Sir John believes, with the probability of a deeply hung Parliament.

You might even add hung-drawn and quartered.

Either ways as the sun continues to beat down – happy days and you might as well have a laugh with the cartoonists who are certain to have a stellar summer.

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08 Jul 2020 

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