Boris Builds a Bridge

In a competitive field yesterday’s bridge across the English Channel, proposed in a solo run by foreign secretary Boris Johnson, must rank as the zaniest piece of headline-hunting since the Brexit referendum. The occasion was the visit to Britain of French president Emmanuel Macron, to meet Theresa May rather than Boris. May and Macron agreed an Anglo-French committee to consider future, but unspecified, collaborative projects, just the ticket to fill out an otherwise thin official communique from the two leaders. How to upstage?

The Boris Bridge worked a treat, reported deadpan as a news story by the BBC, prominent in the Daily Mail and the front-page lead in the Telegraph. The Express was able to offer a real scoop:

‘Emmanuel Macron has jumped at the chance of building a giant bridge linking the UK and the EU after Boris Johnson floated the idea during meetings yesterday, it has been revealed.’

Revealed to the Express only. Denials that the bridge is on any official agenda were duly issued on both sides of the channel and the wretched FT, read mainly by foreigners, did not mention the story at all.

A day later the BBC and the newspaper websites finally got round to phoning a few engineers, some of whom were unsporting enough to mention the last two great Anglo-French collaborations, Concorde, cost over-run 450%, and the channel tunnel, a snip at just 80% over budget.

The British media, including the BBC, have done an appalling job in covering the continuing Brexit circus.

23 thoughts on “Boris Builds a Bridge”

  1. Why is anyone still surprised? The right wing press, which is them all bar the Guardian and the mirror, simply put are full of ideological driven lies. They aren’t newspapers but propeganda sheets
    Broadcast media is terrified of its masters, commercial or political

    1. Alan Dunlop, an engineer at the University of Liverpool, is quoted in the Guardian on the question of cost. ‘It might be cheaper to move France closer’ he suggests.

    2. Right wing media in the US and UK operate in a parallel reality.

      Kurt Eichenwald

      @kurteichenwald

      ·

      Jan 17

      “One thing shown by the obvious lying of recent days by so many in GOP: They have total contempt for their base. They know decades of propaganda have left them incapable of detgecting fiction, and now lie 2 make them think this is about anything other than enriching the donors.”

      Reading the Torygraph these days is fascinating

  2. You say ” The British media, including the BBC, have done an appalling job in covering the continuing Brexit circus ” because it reported an idea by Boris that Macron happened to agree with in public ?
    What about the Irish media ? It has largely become a shill for the Irish government,promoting the official anti-Brexit narrative with hardly a hint of dissension.
    Indeed RTE’s Tony Connelly has virtually become Varadkar’s official spokesman in Brussels with nary a dissenting quibble about Ireland’s Brexit stance.
    But the standout disgrace has been the Irish Times,to such an extent that even its readers have been complaining in the Letters page this week about its coverage.
    The paper really jumped the shark with its Anglophobia on Friday when London editor Denis Staunton took umbrage at being called ” mate ” by a London cabbie comparing it to the Black and Tans attacking Cork.
    “It’s the sound of getting taken down a peg or two, of home truths being delivered, it’s the bouncer on the door, the hooligan on the terrace, it’s a pint glass smashing in the street at midnight. It’s the Black and Tans burning down Cork. ”
    https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/uk/he-was-calling-me-mate-i-felt-the-blood-rush-up-through-my-chest-1.3360607?__vfz=c_pages%3D11000002670848

    I mean,really ?

    1. Macron did not agree with Boris’s wheeze, in public or anywhere else.

      I too used to get irritated with the Irish Times occasionally. Then I started reading the Telegraph every day, which I have been doing since just before the referendum. It is sad to see the Telegraph, once much-admired for hard news especially by journalists, reduced to its current condition. The BBC taxpayer subvention, it should be noted, is £3.5 billion per annum.

      A piece of light relief. Today’s Telegraph letters page gives pride of place to a missive from one Simon Lever in Winchester, who writes ‘As the development of Concorde and the Channel Tunnel have shown, France and Britain can work together in harmony’.
      .

  3. Are there any papers on the effects of Keynesian spending skewed toward projects beginning with the letter B?

    We’ve had the Boris Bikes, the Boris Busses. Boris Bridge has such a ring to it it could be a cunning plan to replace Boris Brexit as the defining issue for the future of the United Kingdom given enough enough momentum. Boris Island would have seen the world’s busiest airport relocated to a bird sanctuary in the Thames estuary, but the real problem with that was the lack of a B. The Boris Bridge With The Garden on It got shelved but the hype was a good laugh and a snip at a mere £40m or so. Clearly there is a real imperative for a Boris themed bridge somewhere on the road to Boris Britain.

    As Foreign Secretary he has been a highly competent attention-seeker.

    He is the 40 watt fluorescent bulb to the midges of British journalism.

  4. @colm.
    Macron was widely reported as saying ” let’s do it ” in reply to Johnson’s idea.My understanding is that this was one of Boris’ typically jocular conversations with the French president which no-one,including the Foreign Secretary,thought to be serious.
    I share your views on the Telegraph – the Barclay Brothers have stripped the title of any respect and credibility it had along with many of its senior editorial staff.The Times seems to have hoovered up many of their departing readers.
    But what is the alternative ?
    The Guardian,like the Irish Times,is entirely one-sided in its news coverage of Brexit,reporting only bad economic or political stories.
    The FT,under Lionel Barber, has trashed its reputation with its dire economic forecasts for Brexit many of which have clearly failed to materialise.
    The Telegraph,Sun and Daily Mail are equally risible in their pro-Brexit coverage.The Independent is anything but.
    The reality is that in the UK the Spectator is just about the only newspaper or magazine that reflects all sides of the political divide and it’s no surprise that its circulation is booming.
    The problem with modern media both here and in the UK is that because of social media the political views of journalists and presenters are now well known.
    I was a journalist for 30 years in the UK and it would have been a sackable offence if I had allowed my personal views to temper my coverage – these days this doesn’t appear to matter.
    In an atmosphere like this it’s hardly surprising that Donald Trump’s Fake News claims gather such resonance amongst ordinary voters.
    Hacks always had a lousy reputation but now it’s even worse than that of economists !

    1. “The Guardian,like the Irish Times,is entirely one-sided in its news coverage of Brexit,reporting only bad economic or political stories.
      The FT,under Lionel Barber, has trashed its reputation with its dire economic forecasts for Brexit many of which have clearly failed to materialise.”

      Brexit is economic vandalism. Leaving the EU may be coherent but it would have to be planned and it wasn’t.

      The Brexit crowd are all over the place. The Tory party seems to be in a similar state to the GOP.

      The Roscommon Champion has more credibility than the Telegraph.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/12/10/next-phase-brexit-talks-goes-badly-must-walk-away-without-deal/

       http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/12/12/brexit-has-exposed-eu-run-sensitive-snowflakes/

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/12/27/dont-believe-pessimists-uk-economy-will-do-just-fine-2018/

       http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/12/28/corbyn-intent-dragging-us-back-nightmare-era-union-rule/

       http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/12/28/trumps-boom-can-last-prove-critics-wrong-economy/

       http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/01/will-deliver-best-brexit-2018/

       http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/03/remainers-suddenly-demanding-everything-campaigned-against-secretly/

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/07/eu-refuses-brexit-deal-city-should-abandon-vast-regulatory-nonsense/

  5. There’s little point lamenting the attention-seeking buffoonery of Boris Johnson or the proprietor-driven inadequacies of the British press. It is currently the settled will of the British people and parliament to implement exit from the EU. The only questions are what kind of Brexit and how long it will be drawn out.

    Quite a few English people appear to be bemused at Ireland’s apparent enthusiam for the EU and wish for Britain to remain. It is quite widely noted that Ireland was forced to vote twice (in 2002 and 2009) on EU treaties to give the results the EU’s Grand Panjandrums required and that the major EU powers used the EU’s institutions to force Ireland in to an official support programme in 2010 so as to protect their banks and bondholders – including a British contribution. And one should not underestimate the extent of English disgust at the EU’s penchant for appointing failed politicians to richly rewarded positions of power and influence. (For example, the Commission President, J-C Juncker, was forced to resign in 2013 in some disgrace as Luxembourg’s PM thereby avoiding being kicked out by the voters. Similarly, Donald Tusk escaped to the Presidency of the Council before his voters had the opportunity to kick him out. The twice-defeated Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, was appointed a vice-president of the Santer Commission which was forced to resign en masse due to corruption. (Jacques Santer was J-C Juncker’s predecessor and mentor when Luxembourg PM.) And we have our own examples, such as Phil Hogan, the man who brought us Irish Water and water charges.)

    For those of us in Blighty it’s not easy making the case for why Britain should remain in the internal market and the Customs Union. Taking back control of laws, borders and money is a potent slogan. And it’s less easy when films like “Dunkirk” and “Darkest Hour” are attracting audiences and interest in the time when Britain provided the only national opposition to Nazism in Europe; and when a TV series, “Britannia”, about native opposition to the Roman invasion of 43 CE, is highly popular.

    1. Today’s (Sunday) edition of the Telegraph contains another front-page lead (We Should Welcome Trump Visit says Boris), a generous hat-tip in the first editorial and an exclusive column from the great man. The Daily Boris is now selling 450K copies, down from over a million twenty years ago. Irish readers should treat themselves for a week or two, the better to understand the extent of the nervous breakdown.

      1. In the interests of not viewing everything cross-channel through green-tinted spectacles it’s worth noting the Irish Times circulation has dropped from 117,370 to 62,423 since 2005.
        And that’s without Boris writing for them.
        Facts,eh ?

  6. From above:
    “I was a journalist for 30 years in the UK and it would have been a sackable offence if I had allowed my personal views to temper my coverage – these days this doesn’t appear to matter.”

    Not everybody is aware that Boris was fired from the Times for making stuff up.

    Also fired from there, somebody called Toby Young.

    For those in Ireland who only discovered Boris when he became London Mayor here is a bit of background to this highly public and influential figure:

    “I was just chucking these rocks over the garden wall. I’d listen to this amazing crash from the greenhouse next door, over in England,” Johnson once said during an interview on BBC radio.

    “Everything I wrote from Brussels was having this amazing explosive effect on the Tory Party and it really gave me this, I suppose, rather weird sense of power,” he added, referring to divisions over Europe that were plaguing the Conservative Party.

    Johnson has also said that an article he wrote in May 1992, headlined “Delors’ plans to rule Europe”, played a part in the rejection of the Maastricht Treaty by Danish voters in a referendum that caused consternation in Brussels.

    “It was huge in Denmark,” he wrote in a 2003 book. “The story was seized on by the ‘No’ campaign. They photocopied it a thousandfold. They marched the streets of Copenhagen with my story fixed to their banners.”

    https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2017/11/joke-s-over-how-boris-johnson-damaging-britain-s-global-stature

    “…..Lucas, furious, complained to the Times. Johnson was sacked. Interviewed by the BBC’s Michael Cockerell in 2013, Johnson said: “It was awful. I remember a deep, deep sense of shame and guilt.” However, it was far from the last time that he played fast and loose with facts – though in his next incarnation, the practice made his name and helped change modern British history.

    To sit in the British Library in London, sifting through the articles that Johnson produced as the Daily Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent from 1989 to 1994, was a mildly amusing experience. He revealed European Commission plans to introduce harmonised “Euro-coffins”, ban prawn cocktail crisps and establish a “banana police force”. He wrote stories headlined “Brussels recruits sniffers to ensure that Euro-manure smells the same” and “Threat to British pink sausages”. He reported that Eurocrats had outlawed Italian condoms because they were not precisely 16 centimetres long.

    One article announced that sappers were going to blow up the commission’s asbestos-ridden Berlaymont headquarters. Another revealed a proposal to build a “kilometre-high Tower of Babel”, the world’s tallest tower, in Brussels in “the most grandiose scheme ever to cross the desk of an EU official”. A third suggested that Britain would leave the EU and join the European Free Trade Association. That such reports bore scant relation to the truth mattered
    little: Johnson’s mission was to debunk the EU at every opportunity……”

  7. Grumpy the Martin Fletcher piece in the New Statesman is pretty devastating on Johnson.
    Prof T-P Most broadsheet newspapers in these parts, with the exception of the FT, have seen circulations halve since the turn of the century. If you are cheesed off with the Irish papers, or the Guardian, I recommend a week of the Telegraph. .

    1. Colm – I read them all,good and bad,Irish,UK and international.
      No point in having a closed mind.

    2. Colm, I think you and Grumpy are being a bit hard on Boris. He’s in to shameless self-advancement and he’s a cad and a bounder, but when you see some of the spin, propaganda and bullshit spouted by the EU’s Grand Panjandrums and the eurocrats it’s easy to understand how he made a good living pricking their pomposity and hubris. We badly need someone similar here as there is no end of this spin, propaganda and bullshit spewed out by public bodies. Take for example the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission: “We are an independent statutory body working towards one common purpose – protecting and increasing consumer welfare.” One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry given that the cost of living in Ireland is more than 20% above the Euro Area average. Or Ervia: “Ervia, as a multi-utility company with subsidiary companies Gas Networks Ireland and Irish Water, is an open organisation which strives to be accountable and transparent to the public.” That is verging on the hilarious. But the energy and water regulator, the CRU, probably takes the buscuit claiming that it protects the short and long term interests of the public by ensuirng that “consumer prices for energy and water are fair and reasonable”. Electricity prices in Ireland are among the highest in the EU – and actually are the highest before tax and levies.

      Most voters are aware of the gap between the bullshit and the reality and are both disgusted and angry, but feel powerless to do anything about it. Boris cleverly exploited this disgust and and anger in Britain to advance his own interests. It might make more sense to seek to close the gap between the bullshit and the reality before criticising chancers like Boris for exploiting it.

  8. The ‘Boris Bridge’ faintly echoes UK official rhetoric of the early Blair years when New Labour positioned British foreign policy as simultaneously seeking to rebuild its so-called traditional ‘special relationship’ with the US as well as acting as a ‘bridge’ to Europe in terms of broader US foreign policy and trading interests by placing Britain at the ‘heart of Europe’. Britain’s role both in devising, and in its support, for the EU ‘Lisbon Strategy’ and its economic goals, and further support offered for development of a European security and defence strategy (ESDP) of that time provide examples. By all accounts it appeared to work for a time, until the European end of the strategy fell apart in the wake of Blair’s decision in 2003 to support the US invasion of Iraq. Thereafter all talk of the UK role as a ‘bridge’ between the US and the EU dissipated and the UK’s position as faithful ally to US foreign policy, and little else, was re-established.

    Viewed through the prism of Britain’s struggle since its postwar loss of empire to redefine its ‘role in the world’, Brexit might be said to represent yet another phase in the UK’s ongoing battle to remould its international identity in the 21st century. The diplomatic bridge metaphor had a nice ring to it in the latter years of the 20th century, even if it ended in policy failure. For all sorts of geopolitical reasons, the Brexit foreign policy strategy appears as ill-fated as it is ill-conceived. The Boris Bridge is going nowhere. But it fits with the jingoistic isolationism of the British tabloids, the sentiments underlying the original Article 50 letter, and the delusional twists of thought of the current British Foreign Secretary whose main, and only, qualification for his present post appears to be headline-grabbing self-promotion based on whatever stroke of genius enters his mind at any given moment.

    1. I think I’m going to instigate Pie-Tin’s Law as the Brexit equivalent of Godwin’s Law.
      As every anti-Brexit article,blog or forum post grows longer the chances of it mentioning the loss of the Empire as a root cause becomes stronger.
      I often wonder if Irish commentators ever stop to consider how many Irish people living in the UK might have voted for Brexit without yearning for a return of the British Empire.

      1. That old ’empire’ ship sailed long ago! You are missing the point being made which is about British identity , particularly as it informs a UK foreign policy role for the 21st century. That this has been a point of contention within the upper echelons of British politics for several decades is hardly arguable given the weight of scholarship and analysis devoted to the role of Britain on the world stage over the past 80 years or so. Like it or not, this is part of the current Brexit psychology, and irrespective of the outcome of the immediate negotiation process with the EU is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

  9. Looks like the “Boris Bridge” idea worked a treat. Instead of discussing anything serious, all sorts of intellectual effort is being wasted discussing something that Boris probably threw out without a moment’s thought.

    As for the practicality of such a bridge? Sure, it’s technically feasible. But the costs of construction, operation and maintenance push the business case for it so far off the mark that it’s not going to happen unless there’s an absolutely cosmic breakthrough in materials science. And it’s unlikely that Boris has any inside information on that.

    1. Love it Hugh – a ‘cosmic breakthrough in materials science’ as Britain departs Europe, out through the St. Georges Channel into the broad Atlantic. An Elastic Bridge to France!

  10. I wonder what the reaction would have been if Macron had made this throwaway line instead of Boris ?
    It’s all very well being smug over here but this is a country which built a motorway between Dublin and Cork and forgot to put any service stations on it.
    If you needed to go to the toilet you had to pull off the motorway and take a pee in someone’s hedge !

  11. The Eurosceptics spent 40 years moaning about Europe and when push came to shove they had nothing ready. Tsk tsk.
    The Tories remind me of Fianna Fail in 2010. Someone elsewhere described the problem as immediate consequences.

  12. I am reminded of Stanley Baldwin who had a big row with the Rothermere and Beaverbrook newspapers (the Mail and the Express – plus ca change) in 1931:
    “The newspapers attacking me are not newspapers in the ordinary sense. They are engines of propaganda for the constantly changing policies, desires, personal vices, personal likes and dislikes of the two men. What are their methods? Their methods are direct falsehoods, misrepresentation, half-truths, the alteration of the speaker’s meaning by publishing a sentence apart from the context…What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.”
    Apparently it did him no harm with the electorate.

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