According to Downing Street’s new spin doctor, he and the PM sang “I Will Survive” as Johnson vowed to plough on with his premiership despite the ongoing partygate scandal. The story has already been dismissed as “utter tripe” by the leader of the Northern Independence Party:
Does anyone think an experienced comms professional just "says things"
The amount of supposedly intelligent people treating this as genuine is quite staggering.
— Philip Proudfoot 🟨🟥 (@PhilipProudfoot) February 7, 2022
Things that definitely happened
Guto Harri’s appointment to the spin doctor role was announced over the weekend. According to Welsh language news website Golwg360, Harri said Johnson is “not all that clownish” and “a very likeable character” (a description that would also describe a part-time clown).
Harri took on the communications brief following a swathe of resignations among the prime minister’s aides.
No. 10 policy chief quits over Boris's Jimmy Savile slur
Munira Mirza who, puzzlingly, has stood loyal to Johnson through his time and Mayor, Brexit, and as PM quits over the Savile slur and half hearted withdrawal.
Rats. Sinking ship. https://t.co/x3Uy6jp5FP
— Fionna O'Leary, 🕯🇪🇺 (@fascinatorfun) February 3, 2022
According to a translation, Harri told Golwg360 that Johnson quoted from Gloria Gaynor’s hit when the pair met on the afternoon of 4 February, before settling down to a “serious conversation” about getting the government “back on track”.
The PM reportedly suggested he should kneel before Harri in an apparent nod to a row over the former broadcaster taking the knee during an on air debate about racism in football last year. Harri claimed:
I walked in and did a salute and said, ‘Prime Minister, Guto Harri reporting for duty’, and he stood up from behind his desk and started taking the salute, but then he said, ‘What am I doing? I should take the knee for you’.
And we both laughed. Then I asked, ‘Are you going to survive, Boris?’, and he said in his deep, slow and purposeful voice and started to sing a little while finishing the sentence and saying, ‘I will survive’.
I inevitably invited him to say, ‘You’ve got all your life to live’, and he replied, ‘I’ve got all my love to give’, so we had a little blast from Gloria Gaynor.
There was a lot of laughter and we sat down to have a serious conversation about how to get the Government back on track and how we are moving forward.
Everyone’s attention is on recent events that have caused a lot of hurt, but in the end that’s nothing to do with the way people voted two years ago.
The BBC to Downing Street pipeline
Harri is a former BBC journalist who went to work for GB News:
Ex bbc man Guto Harri joins Johnson’s team in Downing Street . Yeah the bbc it’s just full of ‘lefty’s’ 🙄
— james k (@jamesk74497814) February 5, 2022
Guto Harri, ex BBC Journalist, then went to GB News and now joining Boris Johnson’s team as director of communications
I am not sure that is career progression
— Louis 🇬🇧 🇪🇺 〓〓 💙 Defend the right to vote (@LouisHenwood) February 5, 2022
Harri quit GB News following a controversy in which he partook in an anti-racist gesture live on air. This last fact is already causing controversy among right-wing figures for some reason:
Blimey @Guto_Harri is Boris Johnson's new Communications Director.
Ex BBC, he was the man who took the knee on @GBNEWS & was fired.
Boris has to go.
— David Atherton (@DaveAtherton20) February 5, 2022
What's the fcuking game Boris ? pic.twitter.com/1hUVgWjTbE
— LittleBoats 🇬🇧NI🏴🏴En (@LittleBoats2020) February 7, 2022
Harri’s links with Huawei have also raised some crusty, right-wing eyebrows:
I am sure that Tory voters will be thrilled to know that Guto Harri has been working for Hawthorn… who lobby for Huawei.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) February 6, 2022
There’s now a question of whether Harri’s appointment will play well with Tory MPs – many of whom were worried that one buffoon in Downing Street was more than enough:
It turns out Boris Johnson’s new comms director Guto Harri lobbied government on behalf of Huawei, the Chinese telecoms company that Tory MPs almost universally fear and loathe. Says @MrHarryCole. Johnson’s charm offensive is eccentric, arguably https://t.co/PxFt8J9BZP
— Robert Peston (@Peston) February 6, 2022
Given how nervy Tory MPs are, and how much they want evidence that No 10 is sharpening up, this is an interesting tack to have taken
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) February 7, 2022
Asked about Harri’s reported assessment that Johnson is “not a complete clown”, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said:
I think obviously he is firmly committed to the Prime Minister’s agenda and delivering on the public’s priorities.
This could be read as meaning Johnson’s “agenda” is one of ‘less than total clownishness’.
Harri went on to say that “90%” of their discussion was “very serious”. He said the PM is “not a vicious person as some misrepresent it”, but this seems to be a misreading of how people see Johnson. Generally, the public doesn’t think he’s vicious; they think he’s a liar and an idiot – something Harri’s improbable story does nothing to dismiss.
Additional reporting by PA
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