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Alastair Campbell’s Diary: The Queen deserves better than Boris Johnson

His shtick and clowning around is an affront to her life and service

Image: The New European

As the boos rang out around St Paul’s, and the Boris Johnson smirk looked a little more pained than usual, there seemed to be genuine shock among the TV commentators. But think about it… those crowds had gathered to give thanks to the Queen, her duty and public service, and suddenly they see a man they know lied to her about proroguing parliament, and lied to us all, about lockdown parties, including one of the wildest on the eve of her husband’s funeral.

There are so many pictures that will define the Queen’s life and times. But the picture of her, all in black, and all alone as Prince Philip is laid to rest, will be right up there. As for pictures that define Johnson, when – and it certainly is when, not if now – his political obituaries are written, I suspect it will be the zipwire. The clown who stopped being funny. The shtick for which time ran out.

So GPs and their staff have seen a doubling in physical attacks by angry patients. Angry about what, who knows? Presumably that they are not getting the service they want at the time they want and in the way they want. And rather than think through the reasons why, they take it out on the person nearest to them.

A receptionist struggling to manage phones and impatient patients in queues; a GP who tells them, yes it might be serious but sorry, there is a very long wait to see a specialist. Then there’s just the fact that there is a lot of anger out there.

I’m angry too. Angry that – for now – we have a corrupt, crooked, lying and useless prime minister and a cabinet full of talentless nodding dogs who in a properly meritocratic Conservative government wouldn’t have got a job polishing Mrs Thatcher’s handbag. I’m angry that Johnson keeps asking to be allowed to get on with the job when it is so transparent that he can’t do the job.

I’m angry that ABC, Austerity + Brexit + Covid, has weakened the NHS, both financially and in terms of staffing, with so many workers now gone back to where they’re wanted. I’m angry that the extra spending for the NHS on the big red bus was a lie and they now tell more lies to pretend we have had that Brexit dividend. I’m angry that those parts of the right wing that have always been suspicious of the NHS because of the socialist principle at its heart are using the crisis to push for reforms that would take us closer to an American-style healthcare system, helping the rich to get richer and the sick to get sicker and poorer.

One person I am not angry with is my GP and his superb team at Park End surgery in north London. They are under pressure, like GPs everywhere. But they operate both fast access and an efficient appointments system. Their links to local pharmacies and hospitals are superb. Likewise their preventive work. They are unfailingly polite, professional and, as last week when I had a bad asthma flare-up requiring a quick blast of steroids and a trip to the hospital for blood tests and a chest X-ray, provide good care in the truest sense of the word. They really care for you.

The bank holiday for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee was renamed Thank Holiday to give us the chance to reflect on who in our lives deserves our thanks. Dr Horton and his team of doctors, nurses and receptionists get my vote. May I suggest we all thank our doctors, who are just one more part of our national life that this wretched government and its right-wing media fellow travellers see fit to undermine as part of their continuing bizarre campaign to destroy all that is good about Britain.

Joe Biden’s every utterance is minutely examined in media all over the world. Though out of power, and banned from Twitter, Donald Trump continues to garner enough attention to feed his narcissistic personality disorder.

Yet it is surely arguable that the tired old “most powerful man in the world” cliche no longer applies to the US president, but to Xi Jinping, who by comparison is low profile in much of our media. Indeed, Der mächtigste Mann der Welt – the most powerful man in the world – is the title of a remarkable German biography I have just read about the Chinese President for Life.

Written by Die Welt editor Stefan Aust and Stern magazine’s Adrian Geiges, it is typical of current German journalism; serious, fact-based, non-polemic, fascinating. There are plenty of good English-language books about China as a whole. But this is the first I have read focused mainly on Xi and I recommend to any English publisher that they buy the rights and get it translated PDQ.

I learned so much about how much I really don’t know about who he is, where he came from, how he rose, sufficient to make the title straight-forwardly accurate rather than usual publisher hype. And one of the reasons he made that rise is that frankly for most of the time we weren’t really paying enough attention.

We need a lot less Trump and a lot more Xi in our debate of what is happening in the world. If a publisher takes up the idea I will forgo commission in return for a three-part serialisation in The New European. Maybe make that four. I think the superstar singing wife may need her own spread, after his “more Maoist than Mao” response to his father being punished by the regime, his fondness for the memory of Stalin, and the ruthless cementing of his own and China’s power as he sets about making his country the strongest economy on earth, with plenty of victims of his illiberalism en route.

We have long known that Boris Johnson skipped the queue at the DNA factory when the self-awareness and humility tokens were being handed out. But it is becoming ever clearer that Lord David Frost may be even less endowed in both departments.

Co-author of the Brexit deal they both hailed as brilliant and now distance themselves from, Frost is reduced to the pre-referendum line that Brexit is all about taking back control from people we don’t elect.

Er, who elected you, Frost? And given that you have failed so spectacularly as Brexit spreads its damage across so many fronts, how do we get rid of you from your comfy red berth for life in the Lords, from where you spout your inanities on things you don’t understand, like the Good Friday Agreement you and Johnson have done so much to undermine?

It was great to catch up with former Taoiseach and GFA hero Bertie Ahern this week. Probably best I save his assessment of Johnson, Frost, Liz Truss, Brandon Lewis and the rest of the GFA Brexit wrecking-ball squad for a rainy day.

“God, you’re a glutton for punishment,” said fellow dawn chorus Lido-goer ‘Arsenal Dave’ Hogan as I rushed through my morning swim before setting off for Glasgow for Scotland’s World Cup Qualifier against Ukraine. He had lived through my agonies in seeing Burnley relegated a couple of weeks earlier, and failed to share my hope that Scotland’s long run of heroic failures might end.

“You know what’s going to happen,” warned Dave, for whom the phrase sardonic wit was invented. He was wrong in his prediction that we would lose on penalties, right alas that the day would end in defeat and deep disappointment.

But perhaps because Scotland didn’t really rise to the occasion, and Ukraine really did, it made it easier to share in the remarkable outpouring of emotion at the end as their players celebrated with their fans. And though they were beaten by Wales, and will be bitterly disappointed not to make the World Cup finals, I reckon for any Ukrainian who was there, Glasgow will forever have a very special place in their hearts.

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