"Never mind the Brexit details, look at this Boris Baby!" The Mail goes into propagandistic overdrive to prop up its Prime Minister

From goo-goo gaa-gaaing for baby Wilfred to framing Johnson himself as the heir to Thatcher, the tabloids are leaning hard on the bullshit button.

A newspaper linked to the governing regime reports on the astounding (and unlikely) artistic promise of the Dear Leader’s baby son, just 8 months old. The paper, which also carries a column by the wife of one of the dear leader’s ministers (an ally-turned-enemy-turned-ally again), puts the child’s picture on its front page and continues its coverage with almost a full page of ecstatic copy inside.

When that kind of thing happens in North Korea or Turkmenistan — where the dictator Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov recently unveiled a 19ft golden statue of his favourite dog — people rightly sneer. A supine media is a symptom of a sickly political system, at once a side-effect and an enabler of corruption and cronyism.

But the fawning coverage of the 8-month-old was not in North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun but The Mail On Sunday, which was gifted a photo exclusive on Wilfred, son of Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds. That the story is bylined to the paper’s showbiz editor is revealing; ‘Boris and Carrie: A Love Story’ has been a project for the tabloids in which the union of a Tory philanderer and a party functionary who left her job after allegations of expenses fiddling, is recast as a romance for the ages.

To buy the cosy family image presented in tabloid stories about the pair you just need to ignore all the other children that the Prime Minister tends to forget and the fact that he found the latest love of his life by shagging her while his then-wife was undergoing cancer treatment.

The tale about Wilfred’s reindeer picture is part of a multi-day story pushed out by Downing Street press operation. It began with a raft of articles about Johnson and Symonds volunteering for a charity that makes calls to older people. Today’s episode has Wilfred’s picture being sent to an 89-year-old woman who Symonds had previously called as part of the initiative. It hits multiple points for the Tory press operation — charity, ‘kindness’, women, and pensioners — while also framing Symonds as the empath who is ‘bringing out Boris’ better instincts’.

Even Wilfred’s outfit is the result of cold political calculus. Per The Mail on Sunday, he is seen wearing “a pair of red and white reindeer leggings by British brand Fred & Noah (priced £5) and a cosy grey cardigan adorned with pictures of Queen’s Guard soldiers.” Look! The boy prince frugally supports British business and our ‘beloved’ Monarchy as well as “our boys” in the military. What would the hypothetical baby son of Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn have been dressed like? A miniature Lenin no doubt, perhaps pictured pissing on a picture of Her Majesty the Queen

With the Brexit deal ‘done’ — where the word ‘done’ means ‘rapidly agreed to deliver something on Christmas Eve, please don’t worry about the details’ — the newspapers who promoted the Prime Minister from bumbling also-ran into his current office see an opportunity to ladle out optimism, jingoism and a tart side of spite. That’s why The Mail on Sunday gives us candy floss empty rhetoric from ‘Dishy’ Rishi Sunak about “coming together” on P.7 then lists the ‘champs and chumps’ of Brexit on P.20, with a whole page given over to “the father of Brexit” Nigel Farage in between.

Sunak’s talk of “believers in Britain” indicates the new line — anyone criticising the deal or even, god forbid, diving into the details will be marked out as an “unbeliever”, a Remainer refusing to get in line with Bold New Britain. Forget that the fishing industry — which was held up as central to the negotiations — is up in arms about the specifics of a deal that it considers capitulation or that the ludicrous ‘Spartans’ of the Tory Party’s hard-right are harrumphing in the corner, we’re all expected to cheer. And the growing pile of bodies from the government’s incompetent and demonstrably corrupt handling of the Covid crisis? It seems we’re meant to throw a decorative blanket over that and look the other way.

Looking at the list of ‘champs and chumps’ explains a great deal about the bitter Brexit ideology that The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday are unlikely to ditch despite all their talk of ‘moving on’:

The first entry on The Mail on Sunday’s list of ‘losers’ is Katya Adler, a professional who speaks five languages and has been one of the more credible and coherent members of the BBC Brexit reporting teams. Usually, the Mail would cheer a mother earning a high salary and raising three children, but Adler works for the BBC and isn’t a raving Brexiteer so she’s somehow “a loser”.

Talking of people who get paid a lot for their opinions… let’s look at what The Mail on Sunday’s worst columnist — some feat in a paper that also prints Sarah Vine’s efforts — is up to; yes, it’s Dan Hodges…

Of course, Hodges couldn’t resist comparing Boris Johnson with Churchill, echoing the latter’s war-time speech about the RAF (“This was their finest hour.”) in his slobbering praise for our current Prime Minister (“This year has been a torrid one for the PM — but this is his finest hour.”) What makes that parallel particularly poisonous is that the RAF that defeated the Luftwaffe against the odds contained a significant number of European pilots, especially Polish airmen.

The Second World War analogies are so irresistible to him because Dan Hodges writes about politics as if he’s penning a pulpy novel. Consider his laughably hyperventilating prose here:

At the moment of maximum danger, with the engine faltering and the storm clouds gathering, he found the landing zone. And he did something more fundamental. The most frequent criticism levelled at Boris is that he is a fake. He will say anything, do anything, promise anything, simply to get what he wants. Or even just to get through another day. ‘I like him but I don’t believe a word he says to me,’ a friend told me a few weeks ago…

… Every positive from January 1 onwards will be hailed by Brexit supporters as a vindication of our decision to leave. Every stumble will be seized upon just as greedily by Remainers to repudiate it.

But as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, such points-scoring will be to miss what Brexit has actually been about. To the British people, it was never a matter of cod quotas or widget alignment. It was about sending a stark, simple message to Britain’s political class: ‘See us.’

Boris Johnson did. If Labour ever got round to electing a leader who listened to the working men and women of Britain, rather than lecturing them, history might have been different. But it was left to a Tory Old Etonian to finally deliver on the instructions delivered in the referendum of June 2016 …Britain saw its Prime Minister take a step towards, not turn his back on, those who had elected him.

Assertions about what the working classes want — who in Hodges’ head are almost exclusively old and white — are common in his columns. It’s a bold flex from a man whose mother, Glenda Jackson, is an Oscar-winning actress and former MP, and who has spent his entire professional life within a London media bubble. He, like his hero Boris, knows bupkiss about what it is to be poor and ignored.

It is not a surprise that The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday should print pure propaganda — it’s why they exist — but in the next few weeks and months, they will go into overdrive. Today’s unhinged salvo from The Mail on Sunday is merely the start:

By March, the vision of Boris Johnson’s mugshot placed beside Margaret Thatcher’s grim visage won’t be confined to the newspaper pages — it’ll be projected onto the white cliffs of Dover as Spitfires drop copies of the Prime Minister’s racist novel Seventy Two-Virgins onto leftist enclaves of Islington. If you complain, well, you’ll just be one of the dwindling band of rubbish-spouting Remainers doing this great and powerful nation down. And don’t you dare ask why everything is more expensive — Bold Brexit Britain is the greatest bargain of them all.

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