UK PM Boris Johnson’s clumsy Peppa Pig World remarks during a Monday speech at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference have sparked credibility concerns within his own party. British academics have discussed whether BoJo’s “shambolic” speech is a harbinger of his potential political demise.
While addressing business leaders on Monday, the British premier lost his place in the middle of the speech, then rifled through his notes for over 20 seconds and ended up praising cartoon character Peppa Pig.
Some Twitter users joked that although BoJo described Peppa as an example of the UK’s success and creativity, Peppa Pig owner Entertainment One (eOne) was sold to US toy company Hasbro two years ago.
Boris Johnson praised Peppa Pig this morning as an example of a UK brand that's gone global…
Indeed, it went so global that the US conglomerate Hasbro acquired it in 2019.
— Edwin Hayward 🦄 🗡 (@uk_domain_names) November 22, 2021
Others wondered as to whether the prime minister’s Peppa Pig babble served as a distraction from the latest Tory sleaze scandal, migration crisis, and controversial changes to the health and care bill.
When Johnson claimed to make & paint buses out of shoeboxes in his spare time, a comms friend told me he had done that to change the google search results – possibly to distract from Arcuri? I suppose 'peppa pig' could be about replacing 'sleaze' or 'corruption'?
— Jessica Simor QC (@JMPSimor) November 22, 2021
Johnson’s CBI speech was mocked by Labour with Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, who dubbed it “shambolic.” “No one was laughing, because the joke’s not funny anymore,” she said as quoted by BBC. For his part, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey lamented the fact that while “businesses are crying out for clarity,” all they got was “Boris Johnson rambling on about Peppa Pig.”
It appears that BoJo’s political camp is also growing weary of him; The Guardian cites senior Tory members as claiming that Johnson is losing credibility within the Conservative party.
— Rachel Wearmouth (@REWearmouth) November 22, 2021
“Some Conservatives have always been concerned about Johnson’s competence but they accepted his leadership because they assumed that he was a ‘vote-winner’, especially among those who normally did not support his party, and they thought he would be advised by people with much better judgment,” says Mark Garnett, a politics professor at Lancaster University and author of The British Prime Minister in an Age of Upheaval.
However, over the past few weeks, the British prime minister has made a series of gaffs that have damaged the government’s popularity and embarrassed the country on the international stage, according to the professor.
Garnett deems that it’s pretty clear that some MPs have lost patience with Johnson. Once the premier loses credibility in the eyes of his voters and begins to look like a major electoral liability, his MPs will quickly organise his departure, one way or another, the academic believes.
“Johnson’s chances of survival depend on a long series of positive events which persuades the electorate to overlook his obvious personal flaws, but there are good reasons for thinking that ‘events’ will not be helpful over the next few months,” Garnett observes.
BoJo’s “shambolic” performance at the CBI is “more in keeping with Boris Johnson’s reputation for being poorly prepared, for not taking advice very well and for not doing the hard miles in preparation for major events,” according to Laura McAllister, professor of public policy at the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University.
In a 20 minute keynote speech to business leaders Boris Johnson has:
– compared himself to Moses
– pretended to be an accelerating car
– referred to himself in the third-person
– lost his place
– admitted he spent y'day at Peppa Pig World#CBI
— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) November 22, 2021
Although Johnson’s “pretty awful” speech triggered a lot of criticism, it is probably “nothing as significant as the fiasco over the Owen Paterson affair, and the attempt to load a new standards committee and undermine the existing standard procedure,” the professor believes.
The professor does not believe that there’s a “coup” brewing within the Conservative Party to replace BoJo, even though domestic problems and his government’s blunders are continuing to pile up.
Firstly, “people knew what they were getting with Boris Johnson from the beginning, and it suited that climate of Brexit and getting Brexit done,” the academic points out. Secondly, the premier has got an 80-seat majority which makes him “pretty impregnable”: “People recognise that when it comes to elections, particularly somebody like Johnson in the current climate of populism and oversimplified politics can have quite some traction,” the professor explains.
Thirdly, although BoJo’s handling of the COVID pandemic has triggered severe scrutiny and prompted some to question whether he is the right leader for the Conservative Party, “there are no outstanding contenders,” according to McAllister.
“There are contenders, of course, but they are people who I think would divide the party as much as they would unite them,” the professor explains. “And therefore, it might be that Boris Johnson is saved by a lack of a unified support for an opponent.”
But who knows how things will pan out for the British PM if he continues to indulge in bad decision-making, she remarks.