From near-death to birth, the show goes on

Bojoy: The first unmarried prime minister to have a baby at No 10. © Getty

Is this the ultimate diversion strategy? Reaction is sharply divided this morning between celebration and exasperation as, once again, Boris Johnson’s personal life eclipses the grim facts.

It has been quite a year. Twelve months ago, Johnson was a backbencher having quit the foreign office in 2018, claiming that Theresa May’s Brexit proposals would relegate the UK to the status of a colony.

Since then, he has become prime minister, prorogued parliament, got divorced, won an election with the biggest share of seats since 1987, forced Brexit through, become engaged, nearly died, led the country through its biggest crisis since World War Two, and become a father of a baby boy.

Martin Kettle sums it up in the Guardian: “The new baby is the embodiment of a prime minister who does the job in his own way, who prefers to govern through the media rather than through parliament – and who, as Blair’s former communications chief Alastair Campbell has correctly identified, is more interested in being prime minister than in doing the job.”

Many see the child’s arrival as a huge red herring. Will the government use the new baby to distract from today’s failure to meet the 100,000 testing target? Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan tweeted: “OK, I’m very happy for Boris & Carrie, but can we please all urgently re-focus on the tens of thousands of people who’ve died & are dying in Britain from #coronavirus.”

Is it fair to call this the ultimate Johnson diversion strategy?

Happy birthday?

Yes. Boris Johnson can survive almost any political calamity, and turn the narrative in his favour. As the UK overtakes France and Spain in the grim global Covid-19 death tallies, Number 10 played the baby news very cleverly, yesterday, making sure it would steal the headlines.

No. The serious business of dealing with the pandemic is not going away. This baby, after all, was conceived long ago in very different times. It is right to celebrate all new birth – and be happy today.

You Decide

  1. What do you think Boris Johnson’s baby should be called?

Activities

  1. Write a letter to the new baby. What would you like to tell him about the world that he has just been born into?

Some People Say...

“If a female prime minister had just had her fifth (or sixth) child by a third father, just months after getting divorced and in the middle of a massive crisis, would we all be putting the flags out?”

Janet Street-Porter, British broadcaster and journalist

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Today’s babies can reasonably be expected to live long into the 22nd Century. Even those who attain only the 2019 average life expectancy at birth, of just under 80 years for males, should just about see in the 2100s. When the younger Johnson’s father was born in 1964, life expectancy at birth for men in Britain was a full decade lower.
What do we not know?
Whether happiness is justified. These are difficult days for optimists. But we should try to keep some perspective too. The coronavirus pandemic has so far killed more than 225,000 people worldwide in four months. While each of these deaths is a tragedy, so each of the estimated 390,000 babies born just yesterday across the planet is a source of joy.

Word Watch

Backbencher
In the UK, an MP who does not have a job in the government or opposition (the main opposite political party), and who sits behind the front benches in the House of Commons.
Relegate
To put down to a lower rank or position.
Colony
A country or area under the full or partial political control of another country and occupied by settlers from that more powerful country.
Prorogued
Last year, the Conservative government temporarily shut down Parliament from 10-24 September.
Embodiment
The visible form of an idea, quality, or feeling.
Blair
Tony Blair, British prime minister (Labour Party), 1997-2007.
Red herring
A distraction.
Calamity
A disaster.

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