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It’s not easy watching a man drowning

I’ve just looked it up online, so it must be true: in his play Man and Superman, George Bernard Shaw – having a pop at the teaching profession – penned the line:

Don’t listen to her, Bob. Remember, those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.

Another popular version of the same thrust runs “Those who can, do: those who can’t, write about it”.

It’s the reason why today I am going to be both somewhat wary of what I say and also steer clear of providing Rusters with a blow-by-blow account of what occurred yesterday at the Palace of Westminster.

There are people far better qualified than your author to report on the subject and I have no hesitation in recommending that anyone wishing to review how things went yesterday refer to the jottings of Fleet Street’s finest rather than anything contained herein.

Sometimes the best put-downs come from comedians or commentators, or those who don’t have the wherewithal to achieve greatness themselves.

As night follows day, it’s far easier to sit on the side-lines, or behind a sofa, and crack a joke (especially if it’s funny) that simultaneously seems to sum up and/or skewer those who dare to put their heads above the parapet and take a position on some great issue of the day than it is to go blinking into the spotlight and take a stand (any stand) on it oneself.

It’s a staple of TV and radio review programmes, sketch shows and panel games like Have I Got News For You.

People we could all name have (and always will)  make very healthy and profitable careers indeed thank you out of mocking others – or pointing out their weaknesses, inconsistencies, foibles or hypocrisies – far more profitable than anyone who actually pursues one in any area of public life.

The push-back to that comment, of course, is that we all make our own choices, some of us by default or accident, as to the career paths that we take.

It stands to reason that you don’t necessarily have to be a tennis player (average, great or at all) in order one day to be able to coach, administer or become an outstanding specialist reporter upon the game.

Similar applies to politics, architecture, astronomy or gastronomy – indeed walk of life that exists.

Furthermore, everyone is entitled to an opinion – it is just a fact of life that some opinions are worth more than others.

Over the last two days I have watched our Prime Minister carrying out his business – first (on Monday) making a much-heralded and anticipated statement to the nation outside Number 10 Downing Street – and then yesterday (Tuesday) making a formal statement in the House of Commons upon the recent G7 summit and then responding to MPs’ reactions to, or questions on, it … and then also, of course, the current state of the Brexit crisis.

In both these public ‘performances’ he was singularly unimpressive – and that is me trying to be an impartial observer without any specific axe to grind (a stance which some might suggest is damned difficult to maintain in the current circumstances).

Boris Johnson is a classic ‘hate’ figure for the British media. He is painted as being totally unprincipled; louche; untrustworthy; arrogant; over-ambitious; self-serving; devoid of any self-awareness or man-management, political or team leadership skills – in other words, he’s essentially a shallow dilettante-charlatan-schemer-clown whose sole saving grace is a certain capacity to amuse (briefly) by force of personality alone.

Which in itself become old-hat and tiresome after a while.

Arguably, if there had ever been put in place a credible and functioning form of filter system to identify those who should never be allowed to enter the world of politics, it would have weeded out Mr Johnson quite early on, i.e. out from the moment that – as is widely-reported – as a semi-precocious child he declared an ambition to be “King of the World”.

Anyone who expresses an opinion upon anything risks the possibility of being proved wrong one day – and I’m no Nostradamus and more than happy to admit it if that fate should befall me on this subject.

Nevertheless, from where I sit this morning, it seems to me that all the evidence to date suggests that – with Boris Johnson – what you see (and what the bulk of journalists and pundits have written/said about him) is exactly how he is.

Not up to the job: well, not this one anyway.

About J S Bird

A retired academic, Jeremy will contribute article on subjects that attract his interest. More Posts