Boris ‘Pants on Fire’ Johnson, the third world war, ‘Good Omens’ and ‘Catch 22’

23 June 2019

So it’s Boris ‘Pants on Fire’ Johnson v Jeremy Hunt.  In the first vote, when there was no tactical voting, 114 Conservative MPs wanted Johnson as leader and 199 didn’t.  Even if you allow for the ones now kowtowing to Johnson, a lot of people who never trusted him still need to be converted.

When Gove admitted taking coke, I suggested this was because he didn’t want any skeletons emerging from his closet later.  I’ll bet Johnson is now wishing he’d done the same since a video proving his closeness to the extreme right-wing Steve Bannon, which he’s always denied, has just surfaced.

Also this week, a neighbour recorded (through the wall?  the letterbox?) a midnight row Johnson was having with his current partner and reported it to the police.  Rows between individuals at home should of course be private if nobody gets hurt, but Johnson has sacrificed his privacy to his ambition and is now fair game.

His housemaster at Eton had him sussed when he was 18, and wrote “I think he honestly believes it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the obligation which binds everyone else”.

Can Britain really survive a prime minister of this calibre?

Before the elimination process started, I asked a friend who he’d vote for and he said that, while he knew Johnson is incompetent and sociopathic, he’d vote for him because he was the only candidate who might be strong enough to pull the Conservative party back together again.  In other words, people are putting ‘their’ party before the financial, political and social needs of the country as a whole.

Meanwhile, over the Atlantic, Trump started the third world war but changed his mind after 10 minutes and recalled the planes, claiming it as proof of his humanity.

Compared with this, it was a relief to hear this week that 20,000 Christians gathered by the Return to Order campaign have signed a petition demanding that Netflix cancel ‘Good Omens’, a new 6-part series starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen.

The Return to Order campaign, part of the American Foundation for a Christian Civilisation, claims that the series is “another step to make satanism appear normal, light and acceptable” and “mocks God’s wisdom” and – far worse – the part of God is voiced by a woman.  (How dare they give God a woman’s voice!)

However, they’re obviously not the sharpest pencils in the box.  For a start, they’re a bit slow on the uptake because the series is based on a book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman published 29 years ago (well worth a read – a great combination of Pratchett’s humour and Gaiman’s darker take on things);  God was played by Alanis Morrissette in the 1999 film ‘Dogma’ (which featured two fallen angels, a couple of stoners and a few good jokes);  and Netflix has nothing to do with it anyway because it was made by Amazon Prime.

Gaiman tweeted a response to the petition:  “I love that they are going to write to Netflix to try and get #GoodOmens cancelled. Says it all really. This is so beautiful … Promise me you won’t tell them?”

For those of us who don’t get much time to watch TV and refuse to pay for it anyway, the week’s highlight was the first episode of a new version of ‘Catch 22’.  Produced by George Clooney, who gives himself the comparatively small part of Lieutenant Scheisskopf (which the book doesn’t translate into English for people with no knowledge of German), it seems to be telling the story in chronological order rather than following the book, which scatters it about.

‘Catch 22’ is probably one of the best anti-war books ever written, alternating humour and the horror of people killing each other, and is one of my favourite books – it’s certainly the book I’ve read more times than any other.

When Robert Altman’s film ‘M*A*S*H’ came out in 1970, I thought this perfectly captured the spirit of ‘Catch 22’ although it was actually based on a book by Richard Hooker about a different war.  Then, later in the same year, Mike Nichols released his own film of ‘Catch 22’, and it too worked.

Somebody once told its author, Joseph Heller (who apparently never lacked self-confidence), that he’d never written another book as good;  the gist of Heller’s reply was “Who has?”

I must re-re-re-read it, or perhaps some M R James, for light relief from what’s going on in the real world.

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