French President Macron was spot on about Boris Johnson being ‘un clown’ and ‘un knucklehead’ – but the Prime Minister’s pantomime act is just not funny anymore
Some of the more regular feedback to this column – and it’s all welcome by the way – involves telling me in no uncertain terms to stop going on about Boris Johnson.
Sometimes it’s put a lot more bluntly, using phrases impossible to repeat in a family newspaper.
It’s difficult though. This is, ostensibly, a politics column and the bloke is – somehow – the Prime Minister. He’s also, unfortunately, box office and hard to ignore.
He’s even, at the moment, dominating the discourse across the Channel, so let me have one more go and then I’ll stop for a bit, I swear.
They have great politics programmes in France, unlike ours. I don’t know about you, but I find Question Time very difficult at the moment, just a sort of collection of soundbites interspersed with some barmy questioning.
Having said that, I’m losing my patience a bit with TV in general, which – I don’t know if I’m getting old or what – is increasingly irritating.
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If you watch MasterChef, for example, and have a shot of tequila every time someone says “plate of food” you can be hammered in the time it takes to make a Pot Noodle.
See also, Premier League football commentary. Everything is “delicious” according to the commentators – a delicious cross, a delicious finish, even – and I swear I heard this the other day – a delicious tackle. I mean, come on.
Anyways, this French politics show was different. There was a heavyweight discussion over worsening relations between the two countries over the refugee crisis.
Mr Johnson, naturally, came up in the conversation and was described by the journalist and biographer Marion van Renterghem in the following terms: “Boris Johnson, it’s not just me saying it, is someone who lies all the time. Lying is for him, like Brexit, something ontological, essential, existential.
“So Boris Johnson can’t be talked to and it’s not just Emmanuel Macron who says so. He is someone who has no word, no morals, and with whom it is extremely difficult to establish a link. I think that as long as these two men are in power, there will be no resolution to the Franco-British crisis.”
I agree with all that – even ontological, which is a word I don’t know.
President Macron himself summed up the French attitude to Mr Johnson as reports surfaced this week that he had privately told ses amis that the PM is “un clown” and “un knucklehead”.
My French peaked at GCSE but I believe “un clown” means “a clown” and “knucklehead” doesn’t need Google Translate either. Anyway, the Tories leapt, as one would expect, to the defence of Mr Johnson.
Business minister George Freeman laid into Mr Macron’s remarks, saying: “It is a pretty unhelpful word.
“Of course, the Prime Minister isn’t a clown…”
I took the telling subtext there to be that he ignored “knucklehead” but maybe it was just an oversight.
Mr Freeman added: “I think we are into pantomime season, aren’t we?”
Yes, George. We have been in pantomime season since July 24, 2019. It’s not funny any more.