The timing couldn’t have been better. What better way to deal with two humiliating byelection defeats and a growing disaffection within the Tory party about his leadership than for Boris Johnson to spend a week abroad? A chance to forget. To let some of the heat die down. And to try to look worthwhile on a global 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 wound up his travels with a final press conference before flying home. It looked as if the week had taken its toll. The hair and the suit were a mess, the skin blotchy and the bags under his eyes appeared to have deepened and darkened visibly in just seven days.
No matter. The Rwanda Panda would always look on his time abroad with fondness. At least he had been in the presence of world leaders who made the effort of treating him with a veneer of respect and sincerity. Not like back home. There even his own cabinet ministers refused to back up his idea that the privileges committee was a lawless kangaroo court whose findings could be disregarded. Still, best to be careful what you wish for. He could have found himself before a judge-led public inquiry.
Johnson began by giving a recap of what the Nato summit had achieved. Beginning by praising the value of a unified supranational organisation. Even historically neutral countries, such as Sweden and Finland, now wanted to join.
Some of the Nato countries present might have wished that he had taken the EU so seriously. Not to mention most of the UK. A new survey has found that more and more people are struggling to think of any positive impacts of Brexit. We’ve 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 cut out for a few minutes, which was no great loss as the Convict used the time to reannounce several of the announcements he had made the day before. The UK and Nato stood alongside Ukraine and would be giving a further £1bn in military aid. Though hopefully not the eye-wateringly expensive Ajax armoured vehicles that the British army had found totally unusable and that had yet to enter service. On the other hand, what better way to kill two birds with one stone? Just offload the junk on to Ukraine.
But that was not all. The Convict wound up his opening remarks by insisting that the UK would increase its defence spending to 2.5% of GDP by the end of the decade. How he intended to find the extra £10bn to pay for the increase he didn’t say. Largely because he didn’t have to. And because he didn’t care. There was next to no chance of him still being prime minister in eight years so he could afford to make as many promises as he liked. Just take the credit for an eye-catching, crowd-pleasing policy and let some other mug pick up the tab.
We then moved on to the questions. Did he agree with Liz Truss that the only acceptable outcome of the Ukraine war was that Russia gave up all the land it had seized by force? The Rwanda Panda smiled. It was at times like this that he remembered why he had given Truss the job. What prime minister didn’t sometimes need a halfwit as foreign secretary? Someone to make him look good. Hell, she could barely complete a sentence on global geopolitics without sounding like an F-grade GCSE student. It wouldn’t surprise him if she couldn’t even locate Ukraine on a map.
“It’s not for us to be more Ukrainian than the Ukrainians,” Johnson said. Surprising both himself and his audience by coming up with an intelligent answer. It wasn’t for Nato to tell Zelenskiy the terms on which he should negotiate a peace. That was down to him. Nato’s role was to make sure that Ukraine had the wherewithal to respond to Russian aggression as it saw fit.
The Convict struggled more when the questions turned to domestic matters. Why didn’t the Conservatives have any plans for dealing with inflation? How come the UK was predicted to have the second-lowest growth – behind Russia – in the G20 countries? And why was the government pushing up the tax burden when so many people were struggling? “Er …” he said. There were some special factors at work. So special that he couldn’t actually remember what they were. But the government did have a plan. At least it would do when he and Rishi Sunak had come up with one. All we needed to do was get through the next three years without starving. Or becoming homeless.
Things then became distressingly graphic. In the one statement that Vladimir Putin had made that the whole world could get behind, the Russian president had said Johnson would not be a pretty sight if allowed to pose with his shirt off. The Rwanda Panda looked slightly wounded and declined to offer an opinion. Though you could tell he thought – in a decent light – that he was still a catch. Still, better topless than bottomless. There are some images once seen that can’t be unseen.