His messy suit, bags under his eyes, jet-setter Boris still thinks he’s a trap | Jean Crace


JThe timing couldn’t have been better. What better way to deal with two humiliating by-election defeats and growing disaffection within the Conservative Party over his leadership than for Boris Johnson to spend a week abroad? A chance to forget. To let some heat go out. And to try to look valid on the world stage. First at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali. Then the G7 in Bavaria. And finally the NATO summit in Madrid.

But all good things must come to an end and the Convict concluded his trip with a final press conference before heading home. It seemed like the week had taken its toll. The hair and costume were messy, the mottled skin and the bags under the eyes appeared to have deepened and visibly darkened in just seven days.

No matter. The Panda of Rwanda would always look back on his time abroad fondly. At least he had been in the presence of world leaders who had made the effort to treat him with a veneer of respect and sincerity. Not like home. There, even his own ministers refused to support his idea that the Privileges Committee was an anarchic puppet tribunal whose findings could be ignored. However, it is better to be careful what you wish for. He could have found himself before a public inquiry led by a judge.

Johnson began by giving a recap of what the NATO summit had achieved. Begin by extolling the value of a unified supranational organization. Even historically neutral countries, such as Sweden and Finland, now wanted to join.

Some of the NATO countries present might have wished he had taken the EU so seriously. Not to mention most of the UK. A new survey has found that more and more people are struggling to think about the positive impacts of Brexit. We have reached the point where EU negotiator Maroš Šefčovič is actively trolling us, begging us to get everyone out of their misery and “do Brexit”.

The microphones then went off for a few minutes, which was not a great loss because the convict took the opportunity to repeat several of the announcements he had made the day before. The UK and NATO stood with Ukraine and would give another £1 billion in military aid. Although, hopefully, these were not the expensive Ajax armored vehicles that the British Army had found completely unusable and had yet to see service. On the other hand, what better way to kill two birds with one stone? Just unload the junk on Ukraine.

But that was not all. The Convict ended his opening remarks by insisting that the UK would increase defense spending to 2.5% of GDP by the end of the decade. How he intended to find the extra £10 billion to pay for the raise, he did not say. Largely because he didn’t have to. And because he didn’t care. There was virtually no chance that he would still be prime minister in eight years, so he could afford to make as many promises as he wanted. Just take credit for an eye-catching, crowd-pleasing policy and let another cup take note.

We then moved on to questions. Did he agree with Liz Truss that the only acceptable outcome of the war in Ukraine was for Russia to give up all the land it had seized by force? Rwanda panda smiled. It was times like this that he remembered why he had given the job to Truss. Which Prime Minister has not sometimes needed a fool as Minister of Foreign Affairs? Someone to make it look good. Hell, she could barely finish a sentence on global geopolitics without looking like an F-level GCSE student. It wouldn’t surprise him if she couldn’t even locate Ukraine on a map.

“It’s not up to us to be more Ukrainian than the Ukrainians,” Johnson said. Surprise both himself and his audience by coming up with an intelligent response. It was not up to NATO to tell Zelenskiy the conditions under which he should negotiate a peace. It was up to him. NATO’s role was to ensure that Ukraine had the means to respond to Russian aggression as it saw fit.

The Convict had a harder time when the questions turned to domestic matters. Why did the Conservatives have no plan to fight inflation? How come the UK was predicted to have the second lowest growth – behind Russia – of the G20 countries? And why was the government raising taxes when so many people were struggling? “Uh…” he said. There were a few special factors at work. So special he couldn’t quite remember what they were. But the government had a plan. At least it would be okay when he and Rishi Sunak found one. All we had to do was make it through the next three years without starving. Or become homeless.

Things then became terribly graphic. In the only statement Vladimir Putin made that the whole world could fall behind, the Russian president said Johnson wouldn’t look good if he was allowed to pose without his shirt on. The Rwandan Panda looked slightly injured and refused to comment. Although you could tell he thought – in a decent light – that he was still a trap. Still, better topless than bottomless. There are once-seen images that cannot be unseen.


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