Boris Johnson, after failing as an MP, for years worked hard to carefully construct a ‘benevolent fool’ persona while he was Mayor of London – and many voters fell for his act for a very long time.
But after he shamelessly jumped on the anti-EU bandwagon during the referendum solely to stab his old foe David Cameron in the back, the mask began to slip.
And he spectacularly proved his political uselessness when he flopped during the Tory leadership race which eventually ‘picked’ Theresa May as PM (her last remaining competitor, Andrea Leadsom, dropped out of the race, so it didn’t really ‘pick’ her at all).
Johnson, well known for his political tricks, has now launched another stinker of an idea as a distraction for the stalled Brexit negotiations: he wants us to build a bridge across the English Channel between France and the UK.
The Foreign Secretary tweeted yesterday: “So much important work in #UKFRSummit outcomes, but I’m especially pleased we are establishing a panel of experts to look at major projects together. Our economic success depends on good infrastructure and good connections. Should the Channel Tunnel be just a first step?”
He also sent out an image of him grinning with French President Emmanuel Macron who’s been on an official trip to Britain.
Now, this isn’t the first outlandish idea BoJo has thrown out as a convenient political distraction. Anyone remember the Boris Island airport? Or his support for the failed Garden Bridge?
And there’s a very sneaky reason why Boris loves to get attention for his ridiculous ideas and statements. In a similar way to Donald Trump, it’s called the dead cat strategy. Popularised by Australian political adviser Lynton Crosby, Boris Johnson himself described how it works in an article from 2013:
“Let us suppose you are losing an argument. The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case. Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner describes as ‘throwing a dead cat on the table, mate’.
“That is because there is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table – and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout ‘Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’; in other words they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.”
So, as the Brexit negotiations sputter on without much success and Emmanuel Macron rejects special access for London’s financial services after Brexit, Johnson tried to change the conversation with this ridiculous Channel bridge idea.
But, thankfully, people on Twitter aren’t falling it for it – in fact, they’re laughing at him.
Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said: “I ignored this earlier because I assumed it wasn’t real. Apparently it is. I mean… who are these clowns claiming to run our country?”
Henry Mance said: “The Royal Yacht colliding with the Channel Bridge would be a great season finale to Brexit.”
Mollie Goodfellow added: “Boris wants a bridge across the channel and I am here to say: why not a cable car.”
And political commentator Dan Hodges made the very good point that the Tories can’t seem to find enough money to properly fund the NHS – but there appears to be plenty of cash for an enormous bridge.
Plenty of others had thoughts on the whole hot mess, as well:
Others mentioned just how impractical the whole thing would be.
Blane Judd, Chair of the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Built Environment Panel, said of the ‘Channel Bridge’ feasibility: “A number of complex issues would need to be addressed before the viability of such a construction project across a busy shipping channel could be granted. Whilst in theory it is entirely possible to construct a bridge of this nature – the height of the bridge to clear shipping, operating constraints due to weather and the complexity of the foundations and structure would add significant weight against such a build.”
Quite frankly, we’re not buying what BoJo’s selling but what do you think?