Boris Johnson answers 12 questions

POSTED: November 14, 2019

I looked at a Conservative Party campaign video called Twelve Questions, that they had uploaded to YouTube. At the time I watched it, 40,545 other people had also seen it.

At first glance the video looks like a parody, made to make him look foolish. Or it looks like an out-take from a tv comedy show in which an actor makes fun of campaign videos, and politicians’ attempts to look like “normal people”.

Then I began to wonder, and I fell into a rabbit hole.

Does the video look like this accidentally, or did the makers cunningly design it to look as though it accidentally made fun of Johnson? Will all campaign videos in the age of social media take on this hue?

In the early days of television politicians adapted themselves to the medium as little as possible. They happily treated interviewers as members of the lower classes, and interviewers happily adopted this position.

Later things became less formal. Interviews became arguments, and politicians created strategies to deal with this. Harold Wilson would pause to light his pipe and, in the time that took, awkward questions would dissolve or disappear from viewers’ memories.

In the nineties, politicians lost their ties and and downplayed their Oxbridge accents, and started to resemble the participants in a reality tv show, just like you and me. Hi there, call me Tony. Call me Dave.

Perhaps we will look back at this video and come to see Johnson cunningly adapting to the age of social media in which self-aware buffoonery makes likes, and likes make stars, and stars make headlines, and all headlines seem like good headlines.

From this perspective his choice of either The Clash or the Rolling Stones as his favourite band seems perfect in its preposterousness. It forms part of the same self-aware buffoonery as his “I make model buses” video where his seeming inability to mask his own amusement at what he says reveals itself as a major strength.

Ladies and gentleman, we have seen the future: a low budget animated series in which the humour will prove cruel and pointless until the projector runs out of power.