There hadn’t even been enough time for him to lie down in protest – at his own schedule, if not the building of a third runway. Just hours after landing at Heathrow on his return from his city break, Boris Johnson found himself facing departmental questions. He’d tried to get out of it by extending his stay in Kabul but the airline’s automated helpline said his return ticket was non-transferable, leaving him no choice but to come home.
So it was a more crumpled than usual Boris who stood up to take a barrage of questions on Britain’s relations with the US. Maybe it was the jet lag, but the foreign secretary didn’t seem to think anything was particularly amiss. When he’d last looked, everything had been just fine. Would that do?
It wouldn’t. Several MPs reminded him that Donald Trump had recently separated immigrant children from their parents and slung them in cages. Something stirred in the mush that passed for Boris’s brain. Cages? He vaguely remembered something about cages. Though cages was probably a bit too strong a word. More like rooms with bars. Quite nice rooms with bars. Though with no carpets.
In any case, Theresa May – along with almost every other world leader – had spoken to Trump and he’d now signed executive orders to reverse his decision. So now the kiddies and their parents would be placed in cages together. Trump the homemaker. The family that’s caged together stays together. Mainly because there’s nowhere else for them to go. Who said the special relationship was no longer special?
This didn’t get quite the triumphant reception Boris had hoped for. The SNP’s Stephen Gethins observed that the foreign secretary had recently declared himself to be growing in admiration for Trump. What did he admire most: caging children or the arbitrary imposition of trade tariffs? Boris hummed and hawed, willing his synapses to connect. Um … he quite liked the president’s plans to build beachside condos in North Korea. He had enjoyed the bombing of Syria. And he loved the Donald’s hair. The hair was great.
After a gentle tease about the lengths to which he would go to conclusively prove he really didn’t give a toss about keeping his word, the shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, invited Boris to list three things he admired in the US president. Which might have been rather more effective if Boris hadn’t just done that. Sometimes it helps to be able to think on your feet. Even in his confused state, Boris was able to remember his previous answers.
Thornberry had another go. Trump bans Muslims, supports Nazis and cages children, so why had the foreign secretary said Trump ought to be running Brexit? Boris again couldn’t believe his luck as Thornberry had just answered her own question. Duh! Fuck business: it was about time all the touchy-feely nonsense came to an end and someone started making Brexit really unpleasant for everyone. That’s what people had been promised and that’s what they should get.
Having exhausted his knowledge of US-UK relations, Boris slumped on to the frontbench to let his colleagues answer the other questions. He yawned frequently and his eyes gently closed. Before long his Afghan hols had caught up with him and he was near comatose. Probably just as well, because that way he didn’t have to hear the junior minister Mark Field say the foreign secretary might visit Africa if the opportunity to miss any difficult votes arose.
What had Boris learned from his day trip to Afghanistan, Labour’s Dan Jarvis demanded. The foreign secretary hauled himself to the dispatch box once more. This was an easy one. He had spent most of the flight home on Wikipedia. Afghanistan was a landlocked country of 252,000 square miles situated somewhere in central and southern Asia. For the first time in the session, he began to relax. He’d expected to be embarrassed. To have his integrity questioned. But everyone had been just as dopey as him.
Conservative Scott Mann ended the session by asking what advice Boris had for England football fans in Russia. “Don’t let their hopes get away with them,” he said brusquely. It was time for everyone to have the same expectations of their football team as they did of him.