It Wasn't Boris
The similarities between Orville Richard Burrell and Boris Johnson are few and far between – apart from the reggae musician’s stage name Shaggy being a good description for our Prime Minister’s hairdo. However I’m wondering if Boris’ denials that he had anything to do with the sexist smears against Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner might have echoes of Shaggy’s hit record “It Wasn’t Me”.
In the song Shaggy claims he is not cheating on his girlfriend despite her catching him “red-handed/Creeping with the girl next door.” Johnson was this week distancing himself from a story in The Mail on Sunday saying Tory MPs are accusing Rayner of distracting him during Prime Minister's Questions by crossing and uncrossing her legs.
While I have no evidence that the PM – or his PR team – was behind this smear I would point out two facts that might raise some interesting questions:
1. The Conservatives are being advised by Australian strategist Lynton Crosby who – according to The Guardian – is “renowned for the ‘dead cat’ strategy, where politicians try to change the national conversation from one scandal to another eye-catching talking point, however negative”;
2. Boris earlier this year tried to undermine Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer by saying he “spent most of his time [as Director of Public Prosecutions] prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile”. While the claim was untrue and the PM backtracked on it, we don’t know how much mud stuck.
Similarly we don’t know how much Angela Rayner’s credibility has been undermined by the false accusation about her behaviour in the House of Commons. However we do know the story has now been running for at least five news cycles (not helped by the Speaker of the House’s ill judged intervention to upbraid the editor and political editor of The Mail on Sunday).
And the time taken up discussing this non-story is time that might have been dedicated to Partygate, the economy, the lack of support for Ukraine refugees or any other issue that might not play well for the Conservatives ahead of next month’s local elections.
But as Boris says: “It wasn’t me”.