“Boris the Coward” – is this the narrative that will cost Johnson his job?

Johnson's cowardice is developing into a problem for the Tories, says Natalie Bennett.

Boris Johnson failing to attend the Channel 4 climate debate last night is, on its own, sadly, unlikely to have much impact.

Any voter who is genuinely concerned about the climate and nature emergencies is highly unlikely to be considering voting for the Conservatives and specifically for Boris Johnson.

This is the man who hailed fracking as “glorious news for humanity”, who tried to fake the air pollution figures in London rather than tackle the deadly issue, who as late as 2015 was promoting the climate change-denying views of Piers Morgan.

But the hashtag “Boris the Coward” has been regularly trending on Twitter, and that isn’t just because of the climate debate, or the Andrew Neill interview, or Thursday night’s no show.

Throwing dead cats on the table, like Michael Gove‘s walk-on or the Tories’ fake fact-checking, isn’t proving as large a distraction as must have been hoped.

Acting like the Artful Dodger is clearly starting to do the Conservatives real damage, and not just to their leader – he’s setting the tone for the rest of them, and their whole campaign.

The Tories are ducking and diving, refusing to send representatives even to events that you’d normally expect them to attend. 

The Overseas Development Institute hustings was a case in point. We got to listen to a Brexit Party representative stumble through their non-policy, but no Conservative, and it wasn’t even, as many were fearing, because they were about to drop to Cameron-era commitment of spending 0.7% of income on international development aid.

I’ve had two hustings that I was going to do next week cancelled because of a lack of Conservative reps.

And then of course there was the Tory non-manifesto, so empty of content that impartial observers were saying it would have been thin as a single year’s budget, that it would produce a Queen’s Speech (supposed to set out a new government’s plan for its term) of astonishing brevity, in a nation that’s so clearly in a state of economic, social, environmental, political and educational crisis. 

The Tories are scarcely even trying to hide the fact that they are trying to do the opposite of Theresa May’s campaign of 2017: ensuring they provide the absolute minimum of policy and provide the minimum of appearances for criticism.

Increasingly, the Tory party campaign is reminding me of Ed Miliband’s Labour in 2015, trying so hard not to make a mistake, on the basis that if they didn’t, the keys to Number 10 would fall into their hand.

Yesterday’s YouGov poll does look awful for anyone who understands that in this climate emergency this coming parliament is the one that has to start transformatory action. It is horrifying for anyone who values the freedom of movement and thinks that young people shouldn’t have fewer freedoms and opportunities than their parents, anyone concerned about the completion of the takeover of our NHS by American multinationals and the loss of hard-won environmental and workers’ rights protections, all the threats of Brexit.

But this is not time for despair. The public are clearly noticing the paucity of actual content and substance in the Tory campaign and increasingly it is being called out. And how this comes from the top of the party. Hence “Boris the Coward”.

Standing on a platform of inaction, of vague nonsense like “get Brexit done”, may not be enough to see Boris Johnson fall back into Downing Street.

And if he is forced to face scrutiny and questioning, as he should in any system called democratic, we know how the public doesn’t like his empty bluster and bombast.

Tonight I’ll be at the Durham Union, debating “This House has no confidence in Boris Johnson”. Writing my speech has a couple of challenges.

The first is that the list of Johnson’s failures is so long I’ll need to cut it from ten hours to 10 minutes. But the second is perhaps more telling. Saying you should have no confidence in Boris Johnson like arguing you should believe in gravity, or photosynthesis.

Of course no one has confidence in Boris Johnson – that’s why his closest supporters and minders are trying to keep him out of public view.

Natalie Bennett is a Green Party peer and a Contributing Editor to Left Foot Forward.

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7 Responses to ““Boris the Coward” – is this the narrative that will cost Johnson his job?”

  1. Michael Fitchett

    I do not disagree. He is chicken. Bodes ill if he talks to Trump.

  2. Mary MacCallum Sullivan

    Please do not raise my hopes without some basis in evidence. I want to believe that there is a basic goodness and recognition of trustworthiness that will guide the hands of the electorate (particularly those newly-registered young voters. Don’t let my pusillanimous generation of greyheads skew the vote to allow the retrograde and oh-so-culpable Tories another victory.

    How can I help reach my ‘ok boomer’ peers to persuade them also to vote for the future and not the imagined past? I really am looking for a constructive answer!

  3. Brianh John

    Yes, I agree that “Boris the Coward” should be the catch-phrase, and that his cowardly no-show at the Channel 4 leaders’ debate should be grabbing all the headlines. But the MSM (including the BBC) has been working overtime to frame the coverage of last evening’s events as “Channel Four row over ice block” rather than “Cowardly PM fails to turn up for debate.” The subsidiary narrative has been the complaint letter sent to Ofcom from Tory HQ — with virtually no coverage for the fact that it was clearly written BEFORE the broadcast, since the letter refers to an ice sculpture of the Prime Minister”. Whatever the misdemeanours of this buffoon, as long as the right-wing media is in charge, it will decide on the angle for press and TV coverage, and it will always be pro-Tory and anti-left. The question is this — is the public smart enough to see through the highly selective and carefully framed narratives fed to them on the BBC and in the right-wing press?

  4. Alasdair Macdonald

    In answer to the question in the title of the piece, the answer, sadly, is NO.

  5. NOTIN MYNAME

    PM MAXI-LIER DECI-ETFUL MER-ACIST, LEADER OF RIGHT-WING ERG CON, MISUSER OF PUBLIC FUNDS, LIAR AND DISLOYAL TO HER MAGISTY THE QUEEN AND POODLE OF TRUE EMPEROR TRUMP. ADULTERER AND FATHER OF ARCURI CHILD, PARTNER OF PREGNANT SYMONDS, COWARD TO THE ROOT. EVEN THE WATER CANNONS ON DANCING BRIDGE WILL NOT PAPER THE CRACKS TO HIDE THE PROFRACKING, FAKE FACT CHECKING, CLIMATE CHANGE DENYING OF A COMPULSIVE DIVER, DODGER, DITHERER BORIS THE COWARD AND BULY. SHAME ON THE BBC TO TURN TO BORIS BASTARD COMPROMISE. ANDREW NEIL ‘GRILLING!’ OF BORIS THE COWARD LIYING FRACKING BAFOON WAS NEVER TO HAPPEN. WHY SHOULD WE PAY OUR LICENCE FEE FOR A QUASI-RIGHT WING BBC? VOTE FOR THE RACIST DDD BORIS THE COWARD AND GOD HELPS US ALL. NOT IN MY NAME OR IN THE NAME OF OUR CHILDREN.

  6. Patrick Newman

    I agree with Alasdair. Johnson enjoys the protection and mass production of false news from the provisional Tories – the national printed media – with the exception of the Mirror and Guardian (very lukewarm Labour support). The electorate are turning into Darlek like creatures going around endlessly repeating “must get Brexit done, must get Brexit done”!

  7. gabriel pepper

    As the polls tighten, Johnson will face a quandary. But that is good, he will b cornered by JC. The disgust 4 the Tory brand is mounting, Tories r now just full of shite. Tories stink of decay. It is 2 early 2 say if Johnson will commit the ultimate stupidity & lie 2 the electorate @ the end of the GE. It would b a fucking stupid thing 2 do, but Johnson is crap enuf 2 do it, but when decent people r prevented from having a peaceful revolution, then it will become violent. So if Johnson is hiding now, he wont last 4 long if the people explode.

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