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The boy who would be King

I think the king is but a man, as I am,: the violet smells to him as it does to me

Once upon a time, there was a little boy called Alexander who really, really wanted to run the country.

So, he went to a very expensive school and did just enough work to get by and get a place at an equally expensive university where he learned lots of interesting facts, and enough Latin and Greek to be able to sound much more clever than his peers. He also made lots of the right sort of friends so that he could call upon them to do him favours in the future if he needed to. Then, when he’d grown up, young Alexander realised that he had something of a way with words and that he could put one in front of another in such a way that people would believe stuff he told them. So he got a job as a journalist, because being able to string a sentence together and fill a page with words that sometimes make sense, to a tight deadline on minimal facts is a fairly handy skill. (Ed. *cough*)

Somewhere along the line, I’m not sure where, he decided that his ‘stage persona’ would be a floppy-haired, buffoonish, possibly slightly bonkers, Wooster-type, going by his middle-name of Boris. (In the family, I believe he is known as Al). Having written a few books, picked up a few TV presenting gigs and made a name for himself as a doyenne of the Eurosceptics, he set out to fulfil his ambition of becoming the most important man in the land.

He knew he would have to practice a bit first, so he first of all became a Member of Parliament and then took on the role of Mayor of London which was the most important role in one of the world’s most important cities. During that time he had a lot of fun with bendy-buses, bikes, a zip-wire and a cable car and waved the flag at lots of the 2012 Olympic events.

Fast-forward to 2020 – because I can’t bear to go over the past few years yet again – and Alexander has moved into 10 Downing Street, achieved a huge ‘Yes please’ for his Brexit plans and is helping fiancée Carrie Symonds choose Winnie-the-Pooh lampshades for the Downing Street nursery. Which is nice.

However. Leaders need to lead. It doesn’t matter how much of a clever-clogs you are, how good your oratorical skills, or how many of your friends are in high places with you, if, when things go a bit pear-shaped, you just bluff and bluster and hide behind your intellect. Or your pet rottweiller (more of Dominic Cummings another time).

The economy hasn’t yet managed to put the three-plus years of indecision and uncertainty behind it, and the worst-case scenario of 20% of the workforce off sick thanks to the coronavirus and Covid-19 is really the last thing we need.

Johnson is holding a press conference as I write, out-lining the preparations that the government is making should the outbreak get any worse. This is his chance to show whether he’s just a floppy-haired nit-wit or really is as clever as he thinks he is. Over to you Al.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Editor-in-Chief across the BMJ portfolio.

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