Fintan O’Toole: Boris the loveable buffoon beats Johnson the charlatan

Key voters know the British PM is a liar but they choose to collude with the spectacle

Boris Johnson presents a 21st century postmodern version of this “theatrical show of society”. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Boris Johnson presents a 21st century postmodern version of this “theatrical show of society”. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Thanks to the marvellous Jennifer Arcuri, with whom he had a long dalliance, we now know that Boris Johnson’s seduction techniques include the acting out of some lines from Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night. “He was hilarious,” she told ITV, “because he would read it. ‘Will you hoist sail sir? Here lies your way’.” The weird thing is that this passage so neatly summarises Johnson’s other attempted seduction – his wooing of traditional Labour voters.

What’s going in Shakespeare’s scene is that an imposter is trying to deliver a message full of ridiculous bombastic flourishes. Cesario, the would-be messenger, is a complete fake – he is actually a woman dressed up as a man. Olivia, to whom the seductive letter is to be delivered, reckons that the bravado and grandiloquence suggest that something fishy is going on and that the sentiments are “more like to be feigned”. Speaking for those in the English midlands and north who have had Johnson’s dubious charms visited upon them, she tells Cesario: “I heard you were saucy at my gates and allowed your approach rather to wonder at you than to hear you.” He must, she thinks, “have some hideous matter to deliver” if he wraps it up in such palaver.

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