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THE ENGLISH JOHNSONS: DEFT OR JUST DAFT?

TO SUMMARIZE ENGLAND’S new Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his family, imagine the Trump clan, including in-laws and hangers-on, all as Donald J.’s brothers and sisters. Oh, and toss in the president’s father Fred too.

Sarah Lyall describes it wonderfully in The New York Times, July 21, 2019: “For Boris Johnson’s Clan, Blood is Thicker Than Political Conviction.”

Above, Boris with his mother, Charlotte Johnson Wahl, left, his sister, Rachel, and brother Leo in 2015. Leo once said, “I love Boris as a brother, but I don’t want to talk about his day job.” Image by Lucy Young/Shutterstock. Below, Boris’s father Stanley once opposed Boris’s stand on Brexit. In fact, so did Boris at one time. These and the following images from The New York Times, July 21, 2019.


Sarah Lyall’s wit has entertained us here at SimanaitisSays before: “English 101” included a review of her The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British. Early on in her book, she comments, “The lives of many British aristocrats have been diminished by crippling taxes, exorbitant heating costs, and the inconvenient disappearance of the feudal system.”

And early on in her Times article, while describing what she calls “the competitive, tight-knit, look-at-me Johnson clan,” Lyall says they hold “a place in British life somewhere in the large, amorphous space between the Kennedys and the Kardashians.”

Here are other tidbits gleaned from Lyall’s New York Times article.

On Boris’s Real Name. “Interestingly enough,” Lyall writes, “the family all calls Boris ‘Al,’—short for Alexander, his actual first name. ‘Boris is like some sort of public construct that is wheeled out’ in nonfamily occasions, the novelist and political commentator Robert Harris said in an interview.”

On Them Foreign Speakers. Lyall cites Boris Johnson complaining, “English is not spoken by some people as their first language.”

Lyall observes, “This naturally upset many Britons, including those in Wales who speak Welsh and those in Scotland who speak Gaelic.”

On a Proper Home Life. Lyall notes that Boris’s sister Rachel “responded to the English-first flap with a tweet that was classic Johnson… how rarified the Johnsons are, how different from you and me, in this case because of their classical educations and hyper-articulate cleverness.”

“ ‘We spoke Ancient Greek at home,’ she wrote, presumably exaggerating, though Boris has been known to drop the occasional Latin and Greek bon mot at unexpected times. ‘I genuinely don’t know what he’s on about.’ ”

“Rachel Johnson has had to perform a complicated jujitsu around her big brother’s candidacy,” The New York Times observes.

Boris’s Way With Words. “It is true,” Lyall writes, “that Boris has a history of provocative I’m-just-speaking-truth pronouncements that appeal to right-leaning and grass-root Tories, but tend to offend the sort of progressive-minded people his siblings (and he) generally socialize with.”

A sample: Boris wrote in his regular Daily Telegraph column, that women in burqas look like “bank robbers” and “letter boxes.”

Just Little Family Squabbles. Sister Rachel responded in her own column in The Mail on Sunday. Lyall writes, “Rachel affected a general tone of airy amusement, as if the issue were nothing more than another family quarrel. Boris’s column, she said, sounds as if it had been ‘written on a Sunday morning while on holiday in Italy, with a bottle or two of Asti Spumante chilled in the fridge for lunch.’ ”

Lyall also cites Leo Johnson, “—the sibling who once said that ‘I’m the nonpolitical one. I’m not blond. I’m not Tory. I was born with the gene for self-publicity missing.’ ” Leo, whose wife is an Afghan-born Muslin, responded on the burqa matter with an angry Twitter post directed at his family.

Does this photo remind you of anyone else?

Blood, Thicker Than Conviction. Yet, Lyall writes, “If all goes as expected and Mr. Johnson becomes prime minister this coming week, this family of overachievers with dueling opinions will have to adjust to a reality in which one member has overachieved his way to the top.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019

One comment on “THE ENGLISH JOHNSONS: DEFT OR JUST DAFT?

  1. Mark W
    July 24, 2019

    I thought that it was us (US) who copied British trends, not the other way around 😦

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