Paul Workman: Downing Street forced to intervene after PM's bewildering Peppa Pig speech
LONDON, U.K. -- Boris Johnson, with his mop of distressed yellow hair and a sizable capacity for showmanship—a man who glories in his own oddball, screwball wit—has done it again.
And much of Britain cringed.
You may remember Boris as Lord Mayor of London dangling helplessly from a stalled zip-line during the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Silly stunt of course, but Boris laughed and everybody laughed along with him.
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He once wrote a newspaper column insulting Africans. All in good satire, said Boris.
Or the unflattering words he had for veiled Muslim women. And the tasteless joke about a goat and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey.
Those were the Boris fun days, the carefree days. Such a long time ago now. Before he rolled over his political rivals and drove his bulldozer straight into the Prime Minister’s office.
And then of course, he gave the country Brexit—freedom from the European Union—followed by food shortages, labour shortages, a fishing war with France, higher consumer prices and hospitals scrambling to find health care workers, to replace all the Europeans who left.
Well good people of Canada, perhaps it’s time for a Boris Johnson update. Who knew the man could make car noises or was a big fan of Peppa Pig, or likened himself to Moses?
For the record, Peppa is an anthropomorphic female pig, star of a popular kids’ television series—famous enough to be shown in more than 180 countries. Who knew?
As it turned out, Peppa figured prominently in a recent speech given by the prime minister, variously described as bewildering, embarrassing, sprawling, shambolic, floundering, bizarre and a mess.
His audience included some of the most powerful business leaders in the U.K., and they were not impressed.
“Forgive me” mumbled Johnson, as he lost his place in the speech, and began furiously shuffling through the mixed up pages in front of him. It went on for an excruciating 20 seconds.
“Forgive me,” he muttered again, agony exemplified, still shuffling.
And one more “forgive me,” before he regained his balance and went on to the charms of his favorite cartoon pig.
“Who would have believed,” he declared to a room of bemused listeners, “a pig that looks like a hairdryer, or possibly a Picasso-like hairdryer.”
The prime minister revealed that he had spent the previous Sunday at Peppa Pig World, a theme park in Hampshire, there to celebrate the power of British creativity.
It was, said the PM, “very much my kind of place.”
Before talk of Peppa there was his comparison to Moses—the prime minister who “came down from Sinai” and handed his civil servants 10 new commandments for battling climate change.
But overall, it’s fair to say his imitation of a car motor was the most befuddling moment, a throaty rendition transcribed by 10 Downing Street as: “arum arum araaaaaagh.”
This came roaring out, oddly, in the middle of a discussion promoting electric cars.
If you’re wondering what happened next, well, quite a lot actually.
A reporter challenged Johnson about his state of mind, or health: “You lost your notes, you lost your place; you went off on a tangent about Peppa Pig. Frankly, is everything okay?”
Yes, responded the ever-bouncy, ever-positive, ever cheerleading prime minister. “I think that people got the vast majority of the points I wanted to make, and I thought it went over well.”
Some in his Conservative party had other thoughts, and anonymous voices soon were being heard in the gossipy, back-biting corridors of Britain’s parliament.
The one that seemed to evoke the most alarm was tweeted by the BBC’s very important Political Editor:
Within hours, Downing Street was forced to intervene.
“The Prime Minister is well,” declared a spokesperson. “The Prime Minister is very much focused on delivering for the public. He briefly lost his place in a speech.”
With some MPs said to be soothing their woes over a bottle of whisky, into the fray came Dominic Raab, veteran cabinet minister, and stalwart Johnson booster.
The prime minister is “ebullient, bouncy, optimistic and Tiggerish,” proclaimed Raab, adding that he also had “steeliness.”
Now Tigger, as most of us know, is an endearing voice from the world of Winnie the Pooh. Tigger is filled with “great energy and optimism.” Tigger is “well-meaning but mischievous.” Tigger’s actions sometimes lead to “chaos and trouble for himself and his friends.”
The Mirror newspaper reported anger bubbling up behind the scenes, quoting an unnamed senior Tory: “It’s like amateur hour at the London Palladium.”
And there you have it people, a political update from the land of Peppa, Tigger and a prime minister who went, “arum arum araaaaaagh.”