Television review: ‘Boris’ is leaving the building

  • Boris Johnson (Sky News)


Boris Johnson and wife Marina Wheeler leave Westminster. Photo: Isabel Infantes/PA Wire
Boris Johnson and wife Marina Wheeler leave Westminster. Photo: Isabel Infantes/PA Wire

On Sky and other news channels, you could see the residence of the Foreign Secretary, who until earlier that day had been Boris Johnson. You could see signs that the incumbent was in the process of moving out of the grand old house near Westminster, but mainly it was just the mansion itself, hour after hour – the “guilty building”.

Finally he emerged, sporting an open-necked white shirt, putting some stuff into the boot of the big black car, while the reporters shouted their questions, as they always do – questions which he ignored, as politicians in these situations always do. And then he was driven away.

The ritual had been completed, the people bringing you these pictures and reports were moving out of there too, and perhaps some of them were wondering how it had become acceptable for reporters to be wasting their time in this way.

As a viewer, you knew that there were many news organisations “covering” this scene of Johnson leaving his official residence and going somewhere else, but you didn’t really want to know just how many of them had spent the day there, doing this thing that they call journalism.

Yes Boris was gone, but even as he was going, he was being treated like some potentate – in the very structure of the arrangement, there is this sense of the very important person being observed by lesser beings outside the gates, happily ignoring their garbled efforts to ask him a question.

And this keeps happening, partly because it has always happened, partly because there are too many people in political journalism who love this kind of hackery, because they would love to be on the other side of those gates themselves.

And because he is himself a hack of a certain kind, Leo Varadkar in his recent blatherings about political journalism, was unable to define these issues accurately. He can’t see that he is part of the problem, that the fault is not entirely in the fact that so much trivia is reported, but that there are times when that is all there is to report – it’s just that it’s all dressed up to seem like something of great significance, like, say, Boris Johnson leaving the house and being asked questions that he is never going to answer.

It was such journalism which enabled Johnson to thrive in the first place, indeed there are British reporters who seem to have spent an indecent proportion of their adult lives standing outside very big houses waiting for Boris to emerge with what they believe will be something enormously interesting or witty or entertaining – they are all in this together, they love it there.

No good has come of it, or could ever have come of it. The job of journalism which needed to be done with “Boris”, was not to be celebrating his entrances and exits and finding him hilarious, but to identify him as an overprivileged delinquent who should never be allowed within a thousand miles of anything important, and to keep informing people of this until there was little likelihood that he could do much damage.

Instead he prospered in that atmosphere in which he was indulged and even admired by those who claim to be “objective”, when it is more accurate to say that they just don’t know any better. That they are coming from the same shrunken world as he is, and that they may even be coming from the same dinner party, at which he was saying this thing they thought was very funny, but was not really funny at all.

So when Newsnight had an item on why so few people trust the British media, naturally you would expect them to start with an evisceration of this process whereby a Boris Johnson was enabled to bring the catastrophe of Brexit on his unfortunate land.

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But it was only John Cleese, brandishing a huge chart which supposedly displayed the low standing of the press in Britain, as a result of which he is going to leave the country and move to the Caribbean island of Nevis.

No, it wasn’t funny either.

Sunday Indo Living

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