Ken Dodd is 90. This may seem a strange way to introduce a post on Brexit, and the latest intervention on the subject by a cabinet minister, but whenever I see London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson standing there with arms outstretched, the thought occurs that his appearance would be improved immeasurably by issuing him with two tickling sticks and a suitable script. Like, oh, I dunno.
There's something missing here ...
“What a day Missus! What a day … what a day for a trip to Brussels, going up to Jean-Claude Juncker, handing him a colander, and saying ‘try straining your sprouts through that, pal’. How tickled he would be! How tattyfalarious and full of plumptiousness it would make the European Commission! What a day, Missus! Tatty bye, everybody! Tatty bye!”
No, that’s not excessively flippant. Seriously, it isn’t. In fact, it’s quite in keeping with what happened when Bozza, sans tickling sticks, fetched up at Policy Exchange, the alleged “think tank” that was quite in vogue until one of its alumni went totally AWOL and claimed Liverpool should be shut down and all its inhabitants moved to London. What Doddy would have made of that would produce even more tattyfalariousness.
Anyone considering me to be indulging in an excess of levity should consider this exchange, which took place after The Great Man had delivered his alleged oration.
Journalist: “Foreign Secretary, what do you say to those people who say ‘Yet another speech on Brexit, but where is the clarity?’”
Bozza: “The carrot?”
Journalist: “The clarity”.
Bozza: “Clarity! OK. God. Carrot. Carrot … Well, as I say, I think you have an abundance of clarity in the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech … What I’m trying to address is a feeling that I pick up talking to people that they’re not getting the message, the positive agenda - I think there is a great positive agenda and we need to get that out there and explain it. And it can be good for carrots too, by the way. All right, you didn’t actually mention carrots, but … we can take back control of our agricultural policies, and it may well be that we can do wonderful things with, you know, to our own regulations to, you know, promote organic carrots”. What a day, Missus! Tatty bye, everybody! Tatty bye!
... yes, it's the tickling sticks
The speech itself was little better: no mention of the Irish border, far less of the peace process. Nothing on Britain’s future relationship with the EU, which might be thought to have some importance here. But there was plenty on, er, the Thai sex trade and dogging. And, as Theresa May likes to say, I am not making this up.
Worse for not just Bozza, but all those out there on the right pretending that his appearance at Policy Exchange should not have been moved to the Wheeltappers and Shunters, was the reception his repeated and untrue claim that the EU was about a European Superstate received from Juncker, who was firm in his rebuttal of the idea.
“Some in the British political society are against the truth, pretending that I am a stupid, stubborn federalist, that I am in favour of a European superstate … I am strictly against a European superstate. We are not the United States of America, we are the European Union, which is a rich body because we have these 27, or 28, nations … The European Union cannot be built against the European nations, so this is total nonsense”.
But then, he was taking the whole thing seriously, which Bozza certainly wasn’t. Also trying to raise the tone was Guy Verhofstadt, who poured cold water on another of Bozza’s false assertions: “Putting up barriers to the movement of trade and people and suggesting that the identity of citizens can only be national is not liberal - it’s quite the opposite”.
Juncker, while Bozza was playing the clown in London, has been doing something most of our free and fearless press will not be reporting: pitching reform of the European Parliament into a bi-cameral legislature, along with a directly elected President. We won’t hear too much of that, because the press agenda is to paint the EU as being undemocratic. That’s why they have elections for the European Parliament, you know.
No, Bozza’s oration was not about the EU. It was about the promotion of Himself Personally Now, within the boundaries mapped out by his real masters, the holders of the keys to the modern-day equivalent of the safe full of incriminating material at the Murdoch press. Rebekah Brooks will have been more than happy at her man’s performance.
The jokes didn’t work. The excursions into Latin fell flat. If only he had ruffled his hair that bit more carefully, got himself a decent scriptwriter, and invested in a couple of tickling sticks, then the audience would really have sat up and took notice.
Mind you, Theresa May might have given him notice, too. Tatty bye, everybody!