This weekend marks Britain’s official celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee. She has reigned over the UK, Canada, Australia and a couple of remaining protectorates dotted about the rest of the of the world (formerly known as colonies) for an astonishing 70 years.
She is the first to achieve this milestone and she’s done it by living a life beyond reproach. The same can’t be said for most of her children. As for her Prime Minister Boris Johnson, perhaps the less said the better. Johnson is made of more Teflon than Jacob Zuma and probably much of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet.
The charismatics are wont to reach into the Book of Isaiah and volubly declaim “no weapon forged against me shall prosper” on social media, but it really does appear as if Johnson does have some kind of otherworldly protection. He has fornicated. He has impregnated. He has caroused. He has lied. And that’s just while he was prime minister.
This time, he’s under a bit more pressure, with the tide of public opinion apparently finally turning against him, unsurprisingly given how so many people had to pay their last respects to loved ones over Zoom because they couldn’t go to funerals, while he was hosting and attending parties in contravention of regulations he had set himself.
Johnson though is master of the ‘dead cat tactic’, which he himself has described as metaphorically flinging a dead cat onto the dining table so that every else is distracted and starts talking about that, rather than what they were arguing about immediately before. His latest dead cat plumbs new depths of bullshit: Johnson intends to honour the Queen and her reign by reinstituting imperial measures in Britain. Pounds and ounces; pints and gallons; inches, yards and miles probably because after all a litre is just like a metre, only wetter.
And now everyone’s up in arms, for and against, as he tries to roll the clock back for a country that no longer has an empire and for whom the monarchy, outside of the Queen herself, is increasingly seen as much of a very costly irrelevance. The last time a Briton chose literally not to read the room was probably Horatio Nelson when he put his telescope to his blind eye at the Battle of Trafalgar. He won the battle, but lost his life.
It’s not clear what fate will befall Johnson’s inability to see any signal, but he obviously has admirers down here in South Africa – if not politically then definitely strategically. Zuma’s Stalingrad defence and Mthethwa’s gargantuan phallic demonstration of the ANC’s impotence are just two slavish imitations of Boris’s playbook.
As for the rising cost of living, our ministers are just as tone deaf as Johnson and his cabinet. This week, as fuel prices skyrocketed to new records, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy tweeted to motorists not to use the aircon in their cars to save fuel. The very next day was the coldest on the Highveld as we officially headed into winter.
You really can’t make it up.
Originally published in the Saturday Star on 4 June 2022.