Mark Steel: Boris Johnson will never match up to idol Winston Churchill – Mark Steel

One of the marvellous qualities of our Prime Minister is he keeps a playful sense of mystery about himself, such as no one having any idea where he is.

He doesn’t seem to bother with the press conferences, or Parliament, or anything.

Recently it was revealed he missed five emergency meetings about the virus because he didn’t want to miss his country breaks.

It’s encouraging that he respects his work/life balance.

Because it’s no good our Prime Minister stopping the spread of a deadly pandemic if it gets him so stressed he’s gone a fortnight without wandering round his grounds looking at deer.

He’s even built up an impressive set of reasons for not turning up, including fathering a baby.

Later he’ll announce he needs another three months off as he’s transitioning and it’s important to get in the right frame of mind before the surgery.

This is the strong leadership we should expect because his hero is Winston Churchill, who he would desperately like to copy.

And maybe Churchill was the same. Perhaps, during the plans for D-Day, Winnie wrote in his diaries: “I was informed of the plans for the landing of troops on the beaches of Normandy. This was a critical moment of history.

This is the strong leadership we should expect because his hero is Winston Churchill, who he would desperately like to copy

“So I took a clear decision to pop to my country house for a weekend break. We had a wonderful selection of cheese and played Cluedo until after midnight.

“I sent a note to President Roosevelt asking if he could wait until Wednesday as I was hoping to play with my new Star Wars light sabre toy on Monday and Tuesday.”

To be fair to Boris Johnson, he has never tried to hide this attitude.

Several people who worked with him claimed he was would always turn up to meetings late, unprepared and spend the time drawing doodles.

Again he might have copied this from Churchill. There could be an account from Field Marshal Montgomery that says: “I explained to the Prime Minister in great detail how we planned to defeat the German army in North Africa.

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“I used a series of maps and graphs, then asked if he approved of our strategy. He said, ‘I wasn’t really listening, but never mind because look, I’ve drawn a cat’.”

The other way in which he copies his outlook from Churchill is the clear way he speaks.

Last week, when the nation demanded forthright guidelines on how to behave, he told us R was R minus R plus R, and we were not allowed to travel unless we were on the way to somewhere.

This is the sort of bold inspiring language his hero used, such as his message following Hitler’s invasion of France, that went: “Uh ah, yes, we MUST be careful of doodlebugs, try and stay 2m away if you can.

“Anyway, we will fight them on the beaches, not this weekend obviously as I’m down in Wiltshire trying out my quad bike.

“And we will never surrender, except once a day when you’re allowed out for your daily surrender.”


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