Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Why it mightn’t have been such a bad week for Boris and Alastair after all

Alastair Campbell
Alastair Campbell
Boris Johnson
The Rooney family spent time outside on their tablets waiting for nine-year-old Kai to finish his football game

By Lindy McDowell

Things have come to a pretty pass when politicians are being taken to court accused of lying. If this catches on we may have to scale up the prison building programme over the next few years.

This week Boris Johnson was informed that he is being summoned to appear in the dock to answer charges of gross exaggeration on the side of a bus.

Boris infamously posed in front of the claim that post-Brexit the UK would save £350m a week.

This alleged endorsement, it's argued, amounts to "misconduct in public office".

I can't stand the man. But I think the whole idea of taking Boris to court is utter nonsense. Not because it is an insult to democracy, an attack on freedom of speech or any of those other portentous concerns voiced by alarmed individuals.

But because it's likely to be counterproductive.

Bearing in mind that we're talking here about one of the foremost self-promotionists in Westminster (and that's saying something) I doubt very much that Boris threw his head in his hands on learning the news and cried bitter tears of regret.

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He's more likely to have thought: "Let's milk this for all it's worth." And in promotional terms it could well be PR platinum.

This is the man aiming to position himself as the UK's arch Brexiteer and here he is being picked upon by some horrid Remainer (which is how his fans will see it).

There are 11 other contenders in the Tory leadership battle, but once again it's Boris who's the man in the big picture.

If we are to judge that fight for the keys to Number 10 by doing a cartoon count this week, he is way, way out in front.

A man who loves courting publicity will savour the publicity of the court. Because the case being taken against him can be made to look spiteful.

That's the word which has also been used this week to describe the expulsion from the Labour Party of another political bigwig equally well-known for enthusiastic self-regard.

Alastair Campbell was dumped (but may yet be reinstated) after he revealed he'd voted Lib Dem.

As he himself noted, the party's swift action against him contrasts tellingly with its tardiness in dealing with in-house anti-Semitism. But that's not the only reason it looks bad.

The move has angered many other disenchanted Labour members and prompted a backlash on social media - #expelmetoo.

The Labour hierarchy has been made to look as though it's picking on poor Alastair. Who, granted, is like Boris, an unlikely bullying victim.

As in the real world, the trick in politics, in public life in general, is not to give your opponents ammunition they can use against you.

Before you start throwing around milkshakes, litigation, expulsions or verbal abuse it's always best to try to gauge whether it's going to rebound upon you.

I doubt very much that the case against Boris Johnson will pave the way for a new era of truthfulness in political life where exaggeration will be outlawed and factual embellishment disdained.

Politicians and porkies go together like Boris and bikes. It's what they do. And the sad fact is that it's what we expect them to do.

I'm not suggesting that it's something that we routinely ignore or even dismiss as unimportant. We do factor it into our appraisal of how they operate.

And despite how we are sometimes regarded by politicians we, the people, are not stupid.

We make up our own minds about whether or not what they say has a ring of authenticity.

In the end you believe who you like.

Donald Trump did not "collude" with the Russians. Bill Clinton did not have sex with that woman. And Gerry Adams was never in the IRA.

Germ of an idea for supermarkets to consider

Airports in America are introducing new anti-bacterial trays in their security areas. These have been coated with a substance which will cut down on the spread of germs. Tests show that standard trays are a breeding ground for bugs. But worse still, surely, are those plastic baskets you get in supermarkets. Does anybody ever clean them? Some are utterly vile. You could grow carrots in them. Dear knows what bacteria are germinating in there. And we're expected to put food in them.

Take a tablet, Coleen’s critics

Such was the rumpus Coleen Rooney caused this week by posting a pic on social media showing her three youngest sons Klay, Kit and Cass quietly engrossed in electronics as older brother Kai took part in a football tournament, you'd think she'd allowed them to play with a Glock.

Instead, they were on their iPads.

Shouldn't she have been encouraging them to run around, climb trees, commune with nature or just with each other?

Anything but sit in the sunshine on a tablet. That's the verdict anyway from Incensed of Instagram.

Some say they're horrified at the sight of the youngest child - he's only 15 months - working away on his personalised tablet.

Me, I'm in awe.

Every time I see a very small child operating such a device (and you do very often these days) I'm so impressed by their obvious ability. Technology is part of their normality.

True, a bit of moderation in all things is important.

But that applies also to criticising young mothers about letting the kids use mobiles and tablets. So what if it's to get Peppa Pig to pacify them for a wee while. Lego served much the same purpose. It's become a fashionable, pious thing to tut-tut about children enjoying technology.

It's the adults I think who have the real problem. The Coleens who think it's a good idea to endlessly post pictures of their children.

And the gurners who don't seem to see a contradiction in using tablets and mobiles themselves - to moan about kids with iPads.

What snake dumped Monty up a mountain?

Reptile of the week (from a wide pool of contenders) had to be the snake discovered up the Wicklow Mountains. It was a Burmese python, a species which can grow to over seven metres and eat a whole alligator. As one observer put it: "This snake did not make its own way up the Wicklow Mountains." Somebody cruelly dumped it. But who? It can't be easy to hide from the neighbours the fact that you've got a Burmese python for a pet. Somebody must know who had it.

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