HENRY DEEDES: Hair scrunched, like a schoolboy dragged out of bed for matins
Boris Johnson sat hunched in his chair, palms clasped to those meaty great gams, his face an expression of affected seriousness.
Hair scrunched, tie slightly skew-whiff, it was the posture of a schoolboy who’d been dragged out of bed to attend mid-morning matins.
Actually, it was worse than that. The Prime Minister was awaiting his customary interrogation on the Andrew Marr Show ahead of the Tory conference.
It was clear from such truculent body language he was not altogether stoked about being there. The slight weariness in his hooded eyes suggested a man who’d have been happier reclining in his hotel room gnawing on a bacon sarnie.
Mr Marr, one suspects, hardly relishes these encounters with the PM either. Keeping the PM tied to his awnings requires almost physical effort. Whenever Mr Johnson went off on one of his tangents, his interviewer resembled a dog-walker struggling to control an over-excited bullmastiff.
Boris Johnson (pictured) sat hunched in his chair, palms clasped to those meaty great gams, his face an expression of affected seriousness as he awaited his customary interrogation on the Andrew Marr Show ahead of the Tory conference
We began with the brutal murder of Sarah Everard by Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens. The PM said it was important we trust the police. Marr pointed out that was exactly what poor Sarah had done. Would there be a public inquiry? Boris indicated there wouldn’t. Possibly keen not to outsource yet another costly, time-consuming inquiry.
Marr wanted to know what was being done to soothe the crisis on petrol forecourts. The PM insisted he would not ‘pull the big lever marked ‘uncontrolled immigration’ as a short-term solution, as some people say. For ‘some people’ read Sir Keir Starmer.
Speaking of Sir Keir, Marr had spoken to Manchester mayor Andy Burnham earlier. You should have seen him when he was asked about a story in the morning papers claiming he was preparing to topple Starmer in a year’s time. He wriggled in his chair as if an army of red ants was traipsing up his trouser leg.
Regarding the fuel shortage saga, the real problem, Boris pointed out, was wages. For too long, British companies had been hooked on cheap labour, hence the lack of HGV drivers. It was time to start paying workers properly. Judging by the noises being made here in Manchester, we can expect to hear a lot of that sort of talk this week.
When asked about the murder of Sarah Everard (pictured) by a police officer, Johnson said people should trust the police and told Marr there would not be a public inquiry
As Marr glanced at his notes, Johnson spotted a gap to open the engines and accelerate into boosterism mode. ‘We’re investing massively in skills, we’re investing massively in infrastructure,’ he boasted. This was starting to sound like a curtain-raiser to his conference speech on Wednesday.
Marr’s flappy ears waggled. I sensed a producer was issuing instructions in his earpiece to rein his guest in. ‘I’m sorry, this is getting towards bluster,’ Marr barked at his guest. ‘No, it’s not!’ huffed Boris. Talk turned to pigs. A hundred thousand porkers are due to be destroyed in coming weeks, because of the shortage of abattoir workers. ‘Wotcha gonna do?’ asked Marr.
Boris wearily pointed out food production does involve the killing of large amounts of animals. Er yes, but the end result is normally juicy pork chops arriving on our plates rather than burned to a crisp in an incinerator.
Once again, Boris began blathering about investing in skills: ‘I’d rather do that than raise taxes to subsidise low wages.’ ‘You are raising taxes!’ said Marr. He put it to the PM that he was behaving more like ex-Labour premier Harold Wilson than Margaret Thatcher. ‘You’re talking total nonsense,’ said Boris with a shake of the head. He pointed out neither of those leaders had to face a ‘fiscal meteorite’ of a pandemic.
Would he raise tax rises again? The PM rabbit-punched the air in defiance. ‘I can tell you there is no fiercer and more zealous opponent of unnecessary tax rises than me,’ he barked.
Marr frowned sceptically. I dare say the redoubtable blue-rinse brigade at conference this week will require even more convincing.
Regarding the fuel shortage saga, the real problem, Boris pointed out, was wages. Pictured: Drivers queue for fuel at a Tesco filling station in Newmarket, Suffolk
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