Armando Iannucci was so repelled on seeing Boris Johnson’s innovative new campaign video that he tweeted an expletive. In the video Boris wanders the floor of CCHQ, and heads into the office kitchen to make tea, answering rapid fire questions on the election. It cleverly blends the personal and the political – does he like Marmite and what is his favourite band? – with messages on Brexit and the election.
I’m not going to link to it here. It will only encourage the politicians. Go and look it up if you want to.
It is disappointing, however, although not surprising given how furious many middle class media people are about Brexit and the continued existence of the Tory party, that one of Britain’s finest satirists should be baffled by what Johnson is up to in the video. Iannucci was key to the success of the Day Today series spoofing TV news in the early 1990s that, it seems, is still used as an instruction manual by trainers at Sky News.
The anti-conservative groupthink is now so strong that he seems to have missed the ingenuity of what Johnson, a famously successful election campaigner, is up to. The directness, humour and faked informality, coupled with a contemporary digital aesthetic, sets a new standard in political communication in the race for Number 10. Corbyn tried similar stuff in 2017, but Johnson is much cleverer and he has a more winning style.
Anyone either well-disposed to Johnson (a lot of Conservatives and a lot of Leavers) or anyone persuadable that he might be just about okay when compared to Jeremy Corbyn, will watch that video and like it or at least find it mildly amusing and humanizing.
There is another reason the video works. Theresa May isn’t in it. Try imagining a two minute film in which Theresa is filmed wandering into the office kitchen:
T May, standing awkwardly next to the fridge: “I have made it very clear that I am not going to open the fridge.”
May continues to stand next to fridge, looking furious.
Advisor steps into shot, opens fridge.