Has any politician’s stock fallen so quickly in recent times as Boris Johnson?
Actually, yes, come to think of it Theresa May has that particular category well and truly sewn up. But still, Boris, once the toast of the Conservative Party and looked upon as a charming, bumbling, reasonably good egg by a large proportion of the rest of the country, has seen his reputation take an absolute battering in the last year or so.
Ever since changing tack and becoming the figurehead for the Brexit campaign – a move seemingly motivated by personal opportunism rather than any actual belief in leaving the EU – and being pictured in front of that fateful ‘£350m every week for the NHS’ bus – opinion has turned against him. Having clearly hoped for a close defeat, before then lining himself up to take over from David Cameron, he was suddenly thrust into pole position to become Tory leader following the Leave vote, being booed by people in London before being, metaphorically at least, knifed in the back by Michael Gove.
He was then ridiculed when awarded the post of foreign secretary (May deciding to keep her enemies close) and kept a relatively low profile during the recent disastrous election campaign, before seemingly trying his best not to look like he was scheming again to take over from her.
But one thing that rarely, if ever, happens to Boris is being hammered in an interview. Either he’s given an easy ride or he manages to bluff his way through it with an adroit turn of phrase. Sometimes he even answers the question.
However, that was very much not the case in this car-crash interview with BBC Radio 4’s Eddie Mair on the PM show where, having been brought on to talk about the Queen’s Speech, he seemed completely unaware of the contents of the Queen’s Speech. He was hesitant and wasn’t allowed to get away with his usual babbling tactics by the persistant Mair.
When asked what the speech would do to tackle discrimination against black people in the criminal justice system, he replied: “Well, there are measures, I believe, in the bill on the courts which I think is supposed to address some of those issues. I think one thing in particular that we are looking at is measures to... hang on a second... there are all sorts of measures that we want to take to ensure that we do not discriminate against everybody.”
He was then asked about how the speech would help white working class boys attend university, and the foreign secretary gave a response that avoided answering the question.
Mair then turned to mental health care, and Johnson tried to return to the first question, only to be told by Mair: “It’s not a Two Ronnies sketch - you can’t answer the question before last.”
When asked why so many things from their manifesto had been dropped, despite the fact they had the most amount of seats, Johnson then replied: “I’m not going to hide it from you that the election did not turn out exactly as we would have hoped. It’s our job to form a government if we possibly can and to get on with what I think is a very progressive Queen’s speech.”
He continued: “The point of the prime minister is to lead the country, to give a lead on these key issues and to take this Queen’s Speech through, and she will. She will do a great job. The people of this country, I think, have had pretty much enough of elections. I think most people want a period of calm.”
It brought to mind the similarly awkward interview on LBC Radio which led to shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott receiving an avalanche of criticism during the election campaign.
We wonder if Boris will get the same treatment?