How Boris Johnson made his waistline a political issue


I see a British Labor MP suffered a public backlash last week after he tweeted a comment about Boris Johnson’s body shape.

Ben Bradshaw’s crime was viewed as worse by some because, in the photo he commented on, the Prime Minister was visiting a hospital (to promote vaccine recalls) without wearing a mask. This was the real problem, many thought.

So when Bradshaw tweeted “He also gained weight” he was accused of both shaming fats and distracting from the most important point. Even some of Johnson’s critics rushed to defend the PM, reluctantly. “Don’t make me do this anymore,” one pleaded.

Normally I would agree that a politician’s weight doesn’t matter to his performance, but Johnson can be a legitimate exception. I will explain why shortly. First, I have to talk about myself.

It is not uncommon these days for people – often of the female faith – to tell me that I am too skinny. I wouldn’t exactly call it shame, but I sometimes feel pressured to let go of the run and acquire some of the comfy padding that women in particular seem to enjoy in men.

I realize that a few extra pounds could make me look a little less miserable.

However, I was not always thin. Here, for example, is something I wrote elsewhere in these pages in the early days of the Celtic Tiger, while lamenting that my waistline had become a metaphor for the Irish economy: “I have noticed this trend for the first time last year, when I record growth rate of 7.5 percent. But after another round of dynamic returns recently, it looks like growth could reach 9% for 1998. And if you include the 5.5% reached in 1996, that equates to a period of sustained expansion that has no effect. equal to that of the economy.

There was a lot more goof where it came from, but you get the gist of it. Anyway, soon after and several years before Bertie Ahern’s government had the same idea, I embarked on an austerity program, starting with a 100% reduction in Bewley’s breakfasts. all day.

The reason I’m mentioning this now is that three years ago Johnson had a very similar idea for a column he wrote for Spectator magazine.

Emboldened by the early success of a new diet and exercise regimen that would soon help him win Tory leadership and number 10 keys, he said his weight problems were a metaphor for the Great -Lean and hungry Britain struggling to come out of hypertrophy. the era of the buffet on the day of joining the EU.

He began by shaming himself, via the account of the decisive consultation with a French doctor who had “winced” because of the details of his old eating and drinking habits: “I suddenly felt ashamed. I was here, a representative of the political class of what is now the fattest nation in Europe and a living embodiment of our state of moral akrasia.

He went on to describe at length the enormous cost of Britain’s obesity crisis: “We are spending tens of billions of taxpayer dollars on the consequences of this national weakness of will. “

Then, loosening the belt of his metaphor a notch, he lectured: “We have every possible incentive to change, to take back control. […] But we are immersed in inertia, a moral inertia, which exactly matches the political inertia of the British ruling class.

Johnson’s use of his old waistline as a hostage is now somewhat reminiscent of the scene in Blazing Saddles where the black sheriff distracts a mob of lynches by holding a gun to his head and threatening to shoot. But her real targets then were Theresa May, the back-stop (“this odious clearance sale”), and her weak-willed fellow politicians who “would give up a thousand years of national autonomy” rather than risk a hard Brexit.

Thankfully, by girding their loins for the fight to come, Britain could count on Boris girding on their lite version first. “I looked at this kind but disapproving French doctor,” he wrote at the start of the column’s big arrival, “and I resolved, like Gandhi, to be the change I wanted to see.”

Anticipating Christmas 2018, he continued: “I hope, during this great world celebration, to raise a toast at the time […] when the British ruling class finally muster the will to do what is necessary, to abandon this deal, to remove the safety net and to effect the change that will launch us into a more agile, flexible and dynamic future.

Then, in resounding words Bradshaw must have remembered last week as well, he concluded: “If I can do it, we all can.”


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