Wednesday 1 July 2020

Why were the Romans and countrymen omitted?

In a revelation surpassed only by the pending announcements about the toilet habits of bears and the religious affiliation of the Pope, Boris Johnson disclosed yesterday that he is not a communist. In a speech which largely announced that he was ‘speeding up’ existing spending commitments so that what he’d previously announced would happen over five years will now only take eight (his understanding of relative dimensions owes more to the Tardis than to Euclid) it was probably the closest thing to a fact. Although, given his well-known casual relationship with the truth, it is at least a possibility that he will have succeeded only in planting the seed of a doubt where none existed before.
In fairness, however, the statement has been taken out of context by many. The full sentence read “My friends, I am not a communist”.  The first two words are very significant; note the absence – by a classicist at that – of any reference to “Romans and countrymen”. It wasn’t addressed to all of us, merely to that circle of people whom Johnson regards as his friends. It is a very small circle (although it’s probably larger than the circle of people who regard him as being their friend as opposed to merely a useful idiot), but it’s the one he most needs to appease. And if we want to know to whom the PM might possibly think himself beholden, we have only to stop and consider for a moment one simple question: what sort of political beliefs do people hold if they might need, even for a split-second, a reassurance that Johnson is not a communist? As the old adage puts it – ‘by their friends shall ye know them’. He may have told us rather more than he intended.

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