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Corona Diaries: Boris Goes to Hollywood

May 13, 2020

Instant name recognition is a wondrous thing. How many politicians are universally known by their first names? Hillary, I suppose. But she didn’t win. And Enoch (Powell), whose name was mainly used since his career disintegrated by those who declaimed that “Enoch was right” when they talked about rivers of blood. Perhaps the last British Prime Minister to be instantly recognised as such was Winston.

And now, whether by accident or design, we have Boris. If you ask anyone in the country who our Prime Minister is, they’ll be able to tell you. It’s Boris. Which is a double-edged sword, because whereas Theresa May, David Cameron and Gordon Brown were relatively anonymous figures to many, everyone knows who Boris is. So for better or for worse, everyone knows who’s in charge and, by implication, who’s to blame when things go wrong. Now being a case in point.

Such is the confusion in the midst of this pandemic that the most frequent refrain I’ve heard over the past few days is “Boris says….”, which is used to justify each and every decision people are taking about how to behave from hereon. There’s even confusion about what we’re permitted to do and what we actually should do.

Perhaps we’d be better off summoning a council of religious scholars to advise us on such matters. They’re usually very good at pronouncing on all the minutiae of life about which we lost souls cry out for guidance. The trouble is, we’d have to wait several centuries for them to come up with a definitive set of rules, and even then we couldn’t be sure that they wouldn’t end up tearing out each other’s beards over the finer points of doctrine and dissolving into schismatic sects.

Instead, we follow the religion of science. We have bodies of scholars who advise the leader, just as the bishops guided the Emperor Constantine at the First Council of Nicaea. We have a government-appointed committee of scientists called SAGE, and now an unofficial SAGE, consisting of equally eminent scientists, who present a contrary view. We also have our voices in the wilderness, scantily-dressed heretics who wander round the country urging us to destroy 5G masts and gobble down chloroquinine, or those who think we should let the weak die off and the strong inherit the earth.

No wonder, like Constantine at Nicaea, Boris at Westminster is dazed and confused. And no wonder we, like lost sheep, cling to the idea that we have a sheepdog who knows best even if the evidence suggests to some that he’s leading us into a ravine.

Perhaps we intone “Boris Says” because some guidance is better than none, and we have less chance of being arrested if we use as our defence that we did what we did because we thought that was what Boris said.

Anyway, later this week I’m going to play golf with a friend because Boris said it was OK. No he didn’t, you might reply, he said you could only do it with a member of your household. Nonsense, I would reply, one of his Companions said that it was OK to play with one other person, and the rest of my household, ie my wife and our squirrels, wouldn’t be seen dead on the golf course. Besides, Boris was referring to the Greater Household. The Household of Humanity. God’s Household in fact.

Or I might say that he used the word household in the context of the time, which was three days ago. Things change fast. Nowadays, household means something different, and we can’t be stuck with a literal interpretation for all time.

OK, you might reply, don’t blame me if the police show up in a golf buggy demanding to see evidence that your opponent lives in the same house as you, and rewards you with a £100 fine if you can’t produce it. After which I would mutter to myself bloody hell, Boris hasn’t even departed yet, but they’re already taking his name in vain.

Or I might just wrap up the argument by declaring that actually he’s not the Prime Minister. He’s just a very naughty boy.

To which you would be quite within your rights to say just shut up and go and play golf, you silly old bugger.

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