The opposition should look to present Prince Andrew and Boris Johnson as a pair of individuals who have both lived inside a bubble of privilege and self-admiration, says Richard Heller.

Labour supporters, particularly Corbynistas, have taken to Twitter to complain that last Saturday’s exclusive Newsnight interview with Prince Andrew was part of a plot by the BBC to distract attention from Labour’s powerful election campaign. 

The interview with the hapless Royal, in fact, gave Labour and other opposition parties new campaign opportunities which so far no one has not taken. 

They could begin by asking him a few questions which Emily Maitlis did not have time for. “Have you tried to understand the feelings of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims at your long friendship with him? Do you not think this might have encouraged him to believe that he could exploit them? Would you care now to apologize to them?

“Who were the eminent people you claimed to have met through Jeffrey Epstein? What do you remember from their lessons in global trade and finance? Did you introduce any eminent people to Epstein? 

“Are you really worth £57 million?” (the eye-watering sum asserted by former Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker in his new book …And What Do You Do?) “Did Jeffrey Epstein invest any money for you? Where is all your money invested – is any in National Savings to help the country and how much of it supports new British enterprises which you claim to champion?” 

It would be a good moment to promise a thorough public audit of the income, assets and costs of the entire Royal Family. It is about establishing once and for all what is private and what is public. An audit would ensure that all the former is fully taxed and all the latter is fully accountable. 

The opposition should also present Prince Andrew and Boris Johnson as a pair: both of the people who have lived in a bubble of privilege and self-admiration, incapable of understanding, let alone respect, the personal standards by which others live their lives.

Boris Johnson’s character and personal life are legitimate targets in this election. The British people have a right to judge the rulers who demand their respect and obedience. 

In history, they have been ready to excuse venal or bad men who governed successfully. For centuries they preferred strong monarchs to saintly ones. When monarchy gave way to political oligarchy in the eighteenth century, they accepted many ministers who were idle, self-seeking, corrupt and at times, blind drunk. But that ruling class presided over an agricultural and then an industrial revolution, defeated Napoleon and acquired extensive overseas possessions at a minimal cost. Later the British people forgave Palmerston (a notorious lecher) and Lloyd George (corrupt and adulterous) for their success in office.

Boris Johnson cannot ask for such forbearance. As Foreign Secretary and as Prime Minister he has done nothing to make the British people feel grateful to him. It takes longer to read out his full name than his achievements. 

Any skilful opposition party could easily present Boris Johnson as a very conceited person with a great deal to be modest about, and one who has never let anyone else stand in the way of his own gratification. 

In doing so, it could appeal to a vast constituency of people who make daily sacrifices for the sake of others. Look at the unpaid carers who keep the welfare state alive, or the people who toil in jobs they hate, the people who have given up their hopes and dreams to give their children or other loved ones the chance to achieve theirs. Boris Johnson may not be going down well with all these voters. His worst moment in the campaign so far came in his stumbling response to a polite question from the BBC’s Naga Munchetty about how voters could relate to him as a family man

Issues of competence and character would be causing Boris Johnson serious problems if Labour had a normal leader. Unfortunately, it has Jeremy Corbyn. He never acquired a reputation as a competent leader, and he has lost the standing he once held as an ethical one. He has shown a selective conscience, vocally condemning the evil acts attributable to Western capitalism, silent or acquiescent towards those of any of its enemies, even those of Putin and his gangster régime or Xi Jinping, the world’s greatest violator of human rights. Worse still, he stands accused by many of his party of protecting crazies and evildoers in its own ranks. 

But there is plenty of scope for other figures to take on Boris Johnson in this way and perhaps to influence the course of the election sufficiently to deny him a majority. Nothing in Labour’s official campaign, fronted by Jeremy Corbyn, is likely to achieve this. 

If Boris Johnson does win that majority, I do not think it will take the British people long to see through him, as a scapegrace they elected by default. It will take a heart of stone not to laugh at his first speech, very soon after election day, urging the British people to sacrifice to “Make Brexit Work”. Voters will then remember his false promises of an instant golden age. He faces ejection from office, derided and despised, no longer commanding vast sums for piffling dishonest journalism or repeating the same after-dinner speech. Perhaps we will see him competing with the artist formerly known as Prince Andrew for opportunities to open supermarkets. A delightful prospect, but all too late for the hard-pressed people enduring his government. 

5.00 avg. rating (96% score) - 3 votes