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The Circus has come to town

In a variety of forms there exists a maxim called “The Duck Test” which, at one time or another, every man jack of us alive has applied to situations we’ve comes across. I know I have.

You know the one: put at its simplest, it runs “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck”.

‘Back in the day’ I had a sometimes difficult relationship with my own son because he had a peculiarly singular attitude to life which involved him doing everything his way or not at all, no matter what the consequences. He would rarely take instruction, or indeed do what he was told – whether by me or anyone else – a trait which constantly got him into trouble at school and elsewhere, was exceedingly frustrating, and (I became worried) would hold him back in life terminally if he didn’t change it.

Having registered all that, simultaneously we were also very close – possibly even alike – which indeed may have been part of our problem.

On one occasion, at my wit’s end trying to get across the message that both self-discipline and listening to one’s elders were positive things, I tried the line that (amidst all our faults) older generations did have one thing going for them: they’d lived a bit.

We all learn about life through a combination of ‘finding things out for ourselves’ and learning from others, including older people.

Okay, old people might well be out of touch, boring and stupid – as it seemed was his default starting position – but at least they had one potentially useful thing going for them: you never know, at some stage in their lives they might have come across and dealt with a problem you’ve got, or possibly might be intimately familiar with something you want to learn about.

My theme was that talking with older people was not necessarily a complete waste of time.

After all, why spend three years finding out something about life for yourself when you might do it just as easily by chatting to an oldie for three hours?

And thus one day my son strode into my room to announce he was fed up: “Will you please stop going round telling the rest of the family that I’m a complete idiot …”

From that rather unpromising opening, it became the origin of a long and fruitful conversation. To get to the nub of it, for my part I pointed out two things.

Firstly, that how we behaved inevitably has an impact upon others, whether they be family, friends or just people out there that we come across every day.

Secondly, by the same token, we all spend every day of our lives forming opinions upon people and things we come across. These were subjective. A lot of the time these opinions might be correct – at others they might not be, simply because we were ill-informed, unaware of the background, didn’t understand the issues or otherwise (for whatever reason) had formed an erroneous impression.

And there isn’t anything we can do about impressions others gain of us. In this particular case, if I had formed the view that he has been behaving like a complete idiot, I was entitled to say so.

Nobody can ‘control’ what others think of them – you cannot insist that only good things are said about you in public.

I was reminded of The Duck Test yesterday when dipping in and out of the media semi-blanket coverage of Boris Johnson’s ascent to the highest office in the land.

It occurred to me that the majority of those involved in UK national politics – and that includes PR people, journalists, pundits, former ministers, bloggers and activists right across the spectrum of political viewpoint from left to right and – lastly but importantly – even the electorate – are openly of the view that our new Prime Minister is a pathological liar; a chaotic, clown-like buffoon; and frankly, no more than an egotistical ‘toff’ devoid of principles, possessed of preciously few positive attributes and – most damningly of all – a slave to his vaulting ambition and rhino-sized sense of entitlement.

It’s perfectly possible [cue a reference to The Duck Test], of course, that they’re right. It does seem that everyone – well, nearly everyone – who has ever worked with or against, or even just come across Mr Johnson, has that view, or something close to it.

I do myself, even though I’ve never met him in the flesh. I’m simply going on his TV and radio appearances, both political and on programmes like Have I Got News For You which I have found strangely (whisper it quietly, please) entertaining. But then I don’t have to work for him and never will.

To finish today, here’s a small but representative sample of some of the media reactions overnight to Mr Johnson becoming Prime Minister. Their basic theme can be summarised as “Boris is a disaster waiting to happen – always has been, always will be, and don’t say I didn’t warn you …”

Step forward, please:

Tom Peck writing for – THE INDEPENDENT

Rafeal Behr writing for – THE GUARDIAN

Various journos writing for – THE GUARDIAN

[Please note that no piece from the Daily Telegraph features only because – without paying a subscription, which on principle I refuse to do – I cannot link Ruster to one].

As a postscript, perhaps in an effort to introduce a small measure of balance, I should also add the following:

A piece detailing how brilliantly accurate Fleet Street’s finest have been over time in predicting how Boris Johnson’s career will unfold, as appears today upon the right-wing website – GUIDO FAWKES

And all this for a chap who hasn’t even yet set foot in Number 10 as Premier …


About Simon Campion-Brown

A former lecturer in politics at Keele University, Simon now lives in Oxfordshire. Married with two children, in 2007 he decided to monitor the Westminster village via newspaper and television and has never looked back. More Posts