COMMENT: No easy escape to the beach for weary Boris

By Toby Neal | Politics | Published:

Boris needs a holiday. Yes, yes, you do too.

Is Boris Johnson in need of a holiday?

But just look at him. He is not bold bouncy Boris of old, which means just a few months ago. He looks tired and haunted.

We know why. He's been through the mill with his health. He's also presiding over a crisis in which there have already been over 40,000 deaths, and rising, which would weigh on anybody's mind.

Thousands of those deaths could have been avoided if we had known back then what we know now, and if we had acted in such-and-such a way at such-and-such a time.

There's no getting away from the fact that this has happened on Boris' watch.

All his upbeat and inspirational plans for 2020 have been eclipsed by a global pandemic for which there will never be a victory parade, just enduring pain, loss and, as the recession bites, increasing hardship.

Together with his own health crisis it has taken its toll and Boris needs to recharge his batteries. He's had the energy visibly sapped from him. The trouble is that while a break, on a nice sunny Caribbean beach for example, would do him the world of good (yes, yes, you want one too), in the current circumstances it's not possible.

He has to stay at the Downing Street helm and set an example. That's official advice given to him by Dominic Cummings.

Having the bounce extracted from Boris has had an impact at Prime Minister's Questions. This week PMQs was the dullest PMQs in the entire history of the universe.


Not even a bit of role reversal could enliven it. Boris Johnson repeatedly challenged Sir Keir Starmer to say whether he thought children going back to school was safe.

Now, Boris Johnson is the Prime Minister. And Prime Minister's Questions does not actually mean it's the occasion for the Prime Minister to ask questions of the Leader of the Opposition.

But it is getting confusing. Sir Keir's crib sheet prepared by his pet spin doctor clearly instructs him to look like a Prime Minister at all times.

He is a man for the occasion, a serious and sensible voice at a time of national crisis, responsible and patriotic, and yet probing, and with a very good tailor. I think that's what it says on the crib sheet.


He's also a lawyer, which makes people assume he's brilliant at asking questions. Indeed, he reads them from his prepared script entirely competently, but without the dash of passion with which Jeremy Corbyn asked his similarly scripted questions. Heaven help Sir Keir if he leaves his briefcase at home.

Sir Keir definitely does have the makings of a Prime Minister, because he ignored Boris' question in a manner of which Theresa May would have been proud.

So we don't know if he thinks it's safe for children to return to school or not, although as he is not the person in power making the decision it is of academic and political interest, but not much else.

Michael Gove incidentally was mocked for saying that children going back to school was safe, but he couldn't guarantee they wouldn't get coronavirus, as if it was some hilarious contradiction in terms.

Back to class! It isn't. Safety is relative, a guarantee is an absolute. Flying in an airliner is safe, but there's no guarantee you won't crash. Working in a library is safe, but there's no guarantee a book won't fall on your head.

Anyway, if Boris is not to be given a holiday, then there is always the prospect that he could furlough himself, and hand over the reins to somebody for a few months.

A few weeks ago an obvious choice would have been Dominic Raab. But now the clever money would be on Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

He is luxuriating in that fleeting golden hour that Chancellors of the Exchequer may have, the time when they are giving huge amounts of money to people and not yet asking for it back.

This makes people think they are doing a great job, although, thinking about it, Labour went to the polls promising to give huge amounts of money to people and still lost the election.

However, so long as Rishi keeps giving away money, he is a wonderful guy and a charismatic and inspirational leader in the making.

As soon as he starts slapping big taxes on us all to pay back on all the billions upon billions he is borrowing, he will become the biggest rogue in Number 11 since Denis Healey. Or George Osborne, who fell so low that he found a home in journalism.

So herewith begins a campaign to get Boris to furlough himself. Everybody can support it, can't they?

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.


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