You see you’re doing what you’ve done throughout this campaign. You get asked a question and then you go on to something else which is a sideline to the actual issue.
You try and avoid the question. This bluster may get you through the hustings, it doesn’t work with me.
That was Andrew Neil interviewing Boris Johnson, then candidate for Tory Prime Minister, in his BBC show broadcast on 12 July 2019. Fast forward five months and Boris Johnson seems to be doing his unlevel best to avoid following Jeremy Corbyn into the hot seat of general election scrutiny.
Since it seems the BBC is letting Mr Johnson off the hook – inexcusably agreeing to let him speak as Prime Minister, making political capital on the Andrew Marr show, in the aftermath of the tragic murder of two young people in the London Bridge terrorist attack of 29 November – Sceptical Scot is replaying that summer interview.
Seconds into the first question [from 31:00 mins] you might see why Boris Johnson would rather not face Andrew Neil again. The current Prime Minister’s answers are tellingly revealing. A hostage to fortune – or Britain’s misfortune.
Andrew Neil: No, no, no…NO! You will follow the questions I want to ask, not the ones you want to be asked.
Boris Johnson: Mutter, mutter [exact words inaudible]Andrew Neil: July 2019
From the first question it is clear that Andrew Neil will use facts and well researched figures to challenge the man opposite him.
On ‘falling crime’ in London (it fell further throughout rest of UK)
Johnson: If people are interested in my character and political credo then look at what I deliver. Neil: Compared to the rest of the country it’s nothing special.
On Kim Darroch (failure to support the British ambassador to US: would Mr Johnson be as craven to Mr Trump when he is Prime Minister?)
Johnson: Have I been craven towards the US? Don’t be ridiculous if I may say so. When it comes to sticking up for UK interests over, say, climate change or disputes with Iran, Iran nuclear, I have been very forthright with the US and I will continue to be so…
On Iran and the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (‘carelessness may be acceptable in a columnist but not in high office…it could cost lives’)
On Brexit (‘Are you seriously telling us you would walk away on 31 October?’)
On the Irish backstop ( ‘EU agreeing to a crucial change would be enough, you would back it?’)
On proroguing parliament (‘it won’t be necessary’ says Johnson)
On EU negotiations (content of ‘paragraph 5B and 5C’ Do you know what’s in paragraph 5C?)
On the economy (‘We will continue to reduce this country’s debt’ Johnson )
Johnson: It’s the poor that matter most (asked if tax cuts for people on £50K a year or NIC cuts for those earning less than £12.5K matter most).
Can you be trusted? (‘We cannot let the country fall to the Marxist rule of Jeremy Corbyn’)
As Nick Cohen forcefully pointed out in Sunday’s Observer:
[Andrew] Neil. He isn’t a monster, just a journalist who does his research and asks hard questions. Politicians who have done their research and subjected their policies to hard questions have nothing to fear ..’ Cohen also cites Corbyn but it’s Johnson we need to focus on here.
‘Johnson is running away from Neil and other interviewers because he is no different. For all the contrasts in style, Johnson lies to his supporters and in all probability to himself.’
And, as Paul Mason underlined after Johnson’s appearance on Marr, he’s still at it:
Marr struggled to get a word in, as Johnson blustered and bluffed. By the end it was just the spectacle of two middle class white men shouting at each other. But in the process, the BBC had allowed Johnson to tell four finely crafted lies.
First: that Labour wants to withdraw from NATO (it doesn’t). Second: that Jeremy Corbyn wants to disband MI5 (he doesn’t). Third: that child poverty has fallen in the last ten years (it has risen by 400,000 since 2011). Fourth: that Parliament had blocked the Queen’s Speech (it was passed with a 16 vote majority).
Peter Oborne highlights how the BBC has let people down in its failure to hold Boris Johnson to account, most notably on ‘Get Brexit Done’: “The nonsensical Conservative position that the country will leave the EU on 31 January – and that the transition period will end in December 2020 – has hardly been scrutinised.”
But bear in mind the observation of David Allen Green.
The only thing you need today(Mike Galsworthy on Twitter re: Momentum troll squad post)