The timing couldn’t have been better. What better way to deal with two humiliating midterm election defeats and a growing discontent within the Tory Party over his leadership than for Boris Johnson to spend a week abroad? A chance to forget. To relax some of the heat. And trying to look worthwhile on the world stage. First at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kigali. Then the G7 in Bavaria. And finally the NATO summit in Madrid.
But all good things come to an end, and the convict capped off his travels with a final press conference before flying home. It seemed as if the week had taken its toll. The hair and suit were a mess, the skin blotchy and the bags under his eyes seemed to have deepened and darkened visibly in just seven days.
Does not matter. The Rwanda Panda would always look at his time abroad with fondness. At least he had been in the presence of world leaders who had taken the trouble to treat him with a veneer of respect and sincerity. Not like at home. There, even his own ministers refused to support his idea that the Privileges Committee was a lawless kangaroo court whose findings could be ignored. Still, it’s best to be careful what you wish for. He could have been brought before a judge-led public inquiry.
Johnson began by summarizing what the NATO summit had accomplished. Starting with praising the value of a unified supranational organization. Even historically neutral countries, such as Sweden and Finland, now wanted to join in.
Some of the NATO countries present may have wished he had taken the EU so seriously. Not to mention most of the UK. A new study has found that more and more people are struggling to think about the positive consequences of Brexit. We have reached the point where the EU negotiator, Maroš Šefčovič, is actively trolling us by begging us to put everyone out of their misery and “get Brexit done”.
The microphones then went out for a few minutes, which was no great loss as the convict used the time to re-announce several of the announcements he had made the day before. The UK and NATO stood side by side with Ukraine and would give another £1 billion in military aid. But hopefully not the dazzlingly expensive armored vehicles of Ajax that the British army had found completely unusable and that still had to go into service. On the other hand, what better way to kill two birds with one stone? Load the junk to Ukraine.
But that wasn’t all. The convict concluded his opening speech by insisting that the UK increase its defense spending to 2.5% of GDP by the end of the decade. He did not say how he planned to find the extra £10bn to pay for the raise. Mainly because it didn’t have to. And because he didn’t care. There was almost no chance that he would still be prime minister eight years from now, so he could afford to make as many promises as he wanted. Just take credit for an eye-catching, crowd-pleasing policy and let another mug pick up the tab.
Then we moved on to the questions. Did he agree with Liz Truss that the only acceptable outcome of the war in Ukraine was for Russia to give up all the land it had taken by force? The Rwanda panda smiled. It was moments like these that he remembered why he had given Truss the job. Which prime minister sometimes didn’t need a half-hearted secretary of state? Someone who makes him look good. Hell, she could barely finish a sentence about global geopolitics without sounding like an F-grade GCSE student. He wouldn’t be surprised if she couldn’t even locate Ukraine on a map.
“It’s not up to us to be more Ukrainian than the Ukrainians,” Johnson said. He surprises both himself and his audience by coming up with an intelligent response. It was not up to NATO to tell Zelenskiy under what terms he should negotiate peace. That was up to him. NATO’s role was to ensure that Ukraine had the means to respond to Russian aggression as it saw fit.
The convict struggled more when the questions focused on internal affairs. Why didn’t the conservatives have plans to tackle inflation? How come the UK was expected to have the second lowest growth – after Russia – in the G20 countries? And why did the government increase the tax burden when so many people were struggling? “Uh…” he said. There were some unusual factors at work. So special that he couldn’t really remember what they were. But the government did have a plan. At least it would suffice if he and Rishi Sunak came up with one. All we had to do was get through the next three years without going hungry. Or become homeless.
Things then got disturbingly graphic. In the only statement Vladimir Putin had made that the whole world could get behind it, the Russian president had said that Johnson would not be a pretty face if he were allowed to pose with his shirt off. The Rwanda Panda looked slightly injured and refused to give an opinion. Though you could tell he thought – in a decent light – he was still a catch. Still better topless than bottomless. There are some images you’ve ever seen that can’t go unnoticed.