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Boris, buses and dead cats

On the Edge

On The Edge
Áine Ryan

Thank goodness it is almost the silly season. Yay! We won’t have to listen to Boris Johnson telling some poor broadcaster that his favourite pastime is making buses out of wooden wine boxes and painting-in happy passengers – all Brexiteers, of course.
Naturally, the buses are eco-friendly, like the low-carbon buses he introduced in London when he was mayor. One imagines too that such buses would never cross a hard-border in Northern Ireland, not even if it meant finding a four-leafed shamrock on some random drumlin in Monaghan!
So Boris’s revelations about his painting pastime were made as the colourful frontrunner to replace Theresa May as prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party was speaking on Talk Radio in a series of media interviews towards the end of June. These interviews were undoubtedly held to deflect from the furore and media frenzy over the widely reported row with his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds.
Clearly interviewer Ross Kempsell seemed to regret asking him to reveal his pastimes.  
“You’re making cardboard buses.”
“I like to paint. Or I make things. I have a thing where I make models of buses. What I make is, I get old, I don’t know, wooden crates, and I paint them. It’s a box that’s been used to contain two wine bottles, right, and it will have a dividing thing. And I turn it into a bus.
“So I put passengers – I paint the passengers enjoying themselves on a wonderful bus – low carbon, of the kind that we brought to the streets of London, reducing CO2, reducing nitrous oxide, reducing pollution.”   
Turns out, though, there was more to Boris’s buses than meets the eye. It’s called internet optimisation or in Boris-speak, on another occasion ‘the dead cat manoeuvre’. So the next time you cause a national scandal (after a major row with your girlfriend and the nosey neighbours report you to the police) just have a dinner party the following night and throw a dead cat in the middle of the dining room table. Your guests might be pretty peed off about your behaviour the previous night, but you have now distracted them from the real issue.  
Before the bus-painting interview, if you googled ‘Boris Johnson and bus’, there would be lots of links to the infamous Johnson’s ‘Brexit Battle Bus’, which was driven around the UK in the lead-up to that vote emblazoned with the lie that: “We send the EU £350 million a week, let’s fund our NHS instead. Vote Leave.”
A downright lie, as has since been proven, but a significant influencing factor on pro-Brexit voters, according to polls.
Ah yes, there is much more to Johnson’s buffoonery than meets the eye. Just like The Donald, he is well capable of speaking out of both sides of his mouth.   
Last week while addressing Tory members in Belfast he said that ‘under no circumstances’ would there be a hard border on the island of Ireland after Britain exits the EU.  
However, dubbing the backstop ‘moral blackmail’, he said that the issue would be resolved in a free trade deal after Brexit.
“Under no circumstances, whatever happens, will I allow the EU or anyone else to create any kind of division down the Irish Sea or attenuate our Union,” Mr Johnson said.
But he used significantly less conciliatory language when he spoke privately at a Conservative Party gathering last summer, writes Diarmuid Ferriter in his Irish Times column last week. Dismissing concerns over the border, Johnson likened the issue to ‘pure millennium-bug stuff’.
I don’t think so. Indeed, he also opined on how he was ‘increasingly admiring of Donald Trump’. “I have become more and more convinced that there is method in his madness . . . Imagine Trump doing Brexit. He’d go in bloody hard . . . there’d be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos. Everyone would think he’d gone mad. But actually you might get somewhere. It’s a very, very good thought.”
Writing before Johnson’s visit to the north on Tuesday last, Ferriter deplored Johnson’s ‘willful ignorance’ about the Border. He described the political strategy of encouraging chaos in the hope that you ‘might get somewhere’ as ‘sad’, and invoking Trump as a role model as ‘even sadder’.
Well, after all, Donald is a past master at throwing dead cats on the dining room table too. Come to think of it, who needs a silly season?