Monday 21 November 2022

Overpaid comics


Living former Prime Ministers – a species of which the UK currently has a glut which is bigger than ever before in its history, the size of which is projected to rise again shortly – can command handsome fees for giving speeches based on their experiences and the wisdom it has allegedly given them. We know, for instance, that Boris Johnson was paid £276,000 (plus expenses) for one speech in the US (whilst also being paid for being an AWOL MP). We also know that he has since given another speech in Singapore, although the fee for that one will probably not become public until the next update of his declaration of interests. The host for the second one has had to apologise to those present to hear it, some of whom felt his robust remarks about China were inappropriate and offensive. The words used by Bloomberg in delivering the apology were that “…the presentation was meant as after-dinner entertainment rather than serious discussion of important controversial and complex issues”, implying that, whatever the fee was, it was being paid not for any expertise or enlightenment, but for a very expensive – and not particularly amusing – stand-up comedian. Overpaid, unfunny and offensive stand-up comic may be one of the fairest descriptions of Johnson ever, but it is surely not what people think they are getting when they pay an exorbitant price for a guest speaker.

It’s also interesting to read precisely what Johnson said that so aroused the ire of those in attendance. He accused China and Russia of being “… states that have been traditionally hostile to immigration and that are becoming increasingly nationalist in their attitudes”, of being “… willing to show a candid disregard for the rule of international law”, and of having demonstrated “… the immense limitations of their political systems by the disastrous mistakes they have made”. There’s not much to disagree with in any of that, but any objective observer would recognise that those same traits have recently been on display a lot closer to home – and especially under the so-called leadership of Johnson himself and his successors. It is that curious English exceptionalism which enables him to see dangerous nationalism everywhere except in the mirror. Paying the pot to criticise the kettle is obviously lucrative from the perspective of the pot, but it provides little in the way of meaningful political analysis. Just as well that one host, at least, recognises that he was overpaying a bad comic rather than employing any sort of expert.


dafis said...

I remain astonished that anyone with an ounce of commonsense would pay more than a bucketful of rusty washers for the pleasure of listening to the "wisdom" of Boris and his kind. As a comedian he might be OK for the posh southern equivalent of a northern club(do they still exist?) but his blustering gibberish can only generate a limited amount of laffs before it become seriously tedious.

Spirit of BME said...

There is as you say a lengthy list of past ministers of the Crown, who are invited to give organisations a speech. The speech they give is not the important, it`s getting them there so they can have a one-to-one about the levers of power and that is why they are paying good money to increase their influence and knowledge.
If a speaker gave such a speech to the audience, he would devalue his brand overnight.