My birthday, Boris Johnson for PM (???), ‘Fates’ Drift’, the future’s for sale

26 May 2019

The main event of the week was of course my birthday which was marred only by fears about who might be the next prime minister.

Can anyone, regardless of their political position, seriously contemplate such a loose cannon as Boris Johnson as prime minister?  Even his sister Rachel can’t.  Nor, I suspect, can my sister.  But let’s be objective for a minute and reflect on his achievements to see if Johnson might make the perfect prime minister:

  • he’s diplomatically disastrous (he was Britain’s worst ever Foreign Secretary – aggravating Iran while trying to free an imprisoned British journalist and using racist language that I prefer not to repeat)
  • he’s culturally insensitive (he neither knows nor cares about the difference between a burkha and a niqab)
  • he’s doesn’t care about cost as long as he’s not paying (as mayor of London, his vanity projects cost the public roughly £1bn)
  • he doesn’t understand money (his much-vaunted* schemes for London included the “cost-neutral” Boris bikes that actually cost £225m, plus £320m for the new ‘Routemaster’ buses and £300m for the Olympic stadium conversion, and that’s before we get to his London estuary airport, the garden bridge, the Emirates cable-car and the water cannon)
  • he doesn’t care about business (he’s been widely quoted as having said “fuck business”)
  • he lacks support in his own party (senior ‘colleagues’ have been saying they wouldn’t serve under him and moderates are now plotting to keep him out)
  • he’s incompetent (his former campaign manager said he couldn’t even manage a petty cash box)
  • he’s a cheat (he fails to disclose money and benefits he’s received elsewhere)
  • he’s a coccentric philanderer (he conceived a ‘love child’ while still married)
  • he’s admitted being a liar (promising £350m more for the NHS every week on his Brexit bus)
  • he’s a narcissist (see vanity projects above and admissions he dyes his hair)
  • he’s had his haircut (which is the final proof he believes he’s a serious contender).

The only thing that can be said in his favour is that he makes Gove the Betrayer, who destroyed our education system, and Hunt the Privately Insured, who sub-contracted NHS services and wondered why they cost more, look good.

I’ve just finished reading a book of poetry recommended by a friend:  ‘Fates’ Drift’ by David Cairns.  Cairns committed a crime and served a prison sentence and, while he was in prison, became a Samaritans Listener, an ‘inmate’ to whom other prisoners can talk in confidence about their own problems.  Listeners meet and are supported by Samaritans from the nearest branch on a regular basis and, if Cairns is anything to go by, the experience can be life-enhancing for Listeners.

His book is funny and sad and thoughtful and well worth reading.  I won’t attempt to give a fuller description here but I will give you three extracts from it that made me think:

  • “Mankind is a paradox shattering reason to pieces / Magnificent as a specimen, disaster as a species”
  • “Don’t waste your precious time judging yourself because of the mistakes you’ve made, there are others who will be doing that for you. Spend that precious time putting the mistakes right.”
  • “If you are someone who prays quietly, it might be time to shout.”

You will, I’m sure, remember that, if you save £1 every second of every day, it’ll take you almost 32 years to have saved £1 billion so it’s obvious that it’ll take you almost 32,000 years to save £1 trillion, by which time you’ll probably be too old to enjoy spending it.  Well, the New York-based BlackRock investment group controls more than £5tn of assets (that’s 160,000 years at £1 per second) and is thought to be the largest investor in coal in the world and one of the three largest shareholders in every major oil company in the world except France’s Total (what’s wrong with Total?)

BlackRock’s Chief Executive Larry Fink said this week that he couldn’t give a flying fart about his son Joshua’s future, or anybody else’s for that matter, or committing humanicide tomorrow because he’s only interested in money today.  These weren’t his exact words but are a fair paraphrase (he actually said “Our firm is built to protect and grow the value of our clients’ assets … our personal views on environmental or social issues don’t matter here”).

Is it a coincidence that colloquially a ‘fink’ is a thoroughly unpleasant person?  or is it just another example of nominative determinism?


*   (perhaps he’s an athlete – a ‘poll-vaunter’)

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