The most annoying phrases used by Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson, “ramping up”, yesterday

There are certain phrases and words that are repeated so often by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson that one wonders if this special collection of words are all he really has. Perhaps he has literally run out of things to say, and must resort to a repetition of the same old stock phrases over and over again, in hopes the words themselves will somehow instigate a magic solution to whatever problem they’re trying to gloss over.

Photo by Joshua Santos on
Example of a normally calm person hearing that Boris Johnson is “ramping up” again

I thought it was about time I summed up these irksome mantras, so here we are in no particular order, the most annoying phrases used by Boris Johnson.

  1. Ramping up” – meaningless and vague phrase used to indicate some vague notion of increased workrate, but with no actual mesurement or comparison of the before and after of said activity. Things Boris Johnson has described as being “ramped up” lately include: Coronavirus testing, Preparations for opening up schools, Vaccination rates, Police enforcement of lockdown rules, No Deal Brexit planning (later ramped down), Reliance on hydrogen (seriously).
  2. Did everything possible” – a relatively new entry to the list, this one is esspecially irritating as it is a kind of catch-all generic excuse for a monumental balls-up. It is also the kind of phrase which forbids challenge; we did everything possible, literally everything, what more could you possibly want to know? Oh right, you want to ask about what we actually did. Well, it was everything, alright? Stop asking questions. Johnson did “everything possible” to avoid 100,000 deaths, but his “everything” didn’t include any of the things he should have done. (Such as following medical advice, making timely decisions, or following examples of more successful countries)
  3. Pay tribute” – annoying because of its deflection and offers nothing tangible. Instead of taking responsibility for a balls-up, the Prime Minister will ignore the whole aspect of blame entirely, like there is no such thing as blame, and he’ll deflect by saying he wishes to to “pay tribute” to the good guys of any bad situation. Some things Johnson has said he “pays tribute to” over the last year include: Captain Sir Tom Moore (who did everything the prime minister didn’t do for the NHS), Jeremy Corbyn (at his final PMQ’s in March 2020), Health workers (yes, it really is that generic), The Prime Minister of Georgia (for resisting Russian pressure), The NHS, Teachers. Who will he pay tribute to next, I wonder? I am pretty sure he paid tribute to pubs and restaurants at some point, and maybe garden centres – but I can’t be sure.
  4. “Let me be clear” – a classic, introduced initially by Theresa May, this precursor to lack of clarity hasn’t been taken up so much by Johnson since he was “clear” in March 2020 when he said, “Let me be absolutely clear that for the overwhelming majority of people who contract the virus this will be a mild disease from which they will speedily and fully recover“. Fast forward to Feb 2021, and over 100,000 people are dead, and the PM himself spent weeks hospitalised with the disease.
  5. “Hard working families” – simply patronising bollocks. This implies of course that many families are not hard working (well, I’m sure he knows quite a few personally). For the man in power to describe people in one breath as “hard working” and in the next to deny them adequate reward or support, is modern Conservatism at its most absolute. (School dinners scandal, for example)
  6. “Levelling up” levelling up was not only a catchphrase but Johnson’s attempt at an actual policy. It is however, one which he has wrestled with and failed to achieve, simply because it is beyond the capacity of Conservative brains to compute, let alone implement: The idea was to iron out any regional inequalities in the economy, so there were no such things as rich or poor parts of the country. To bring the poor areas up to the same level. Well, Johnson has wheeled out this ridiculous phrase at various opportunities in the media but done absolutely nothing for it. How can he? He’s a Tory. This was a shallow PR fantasy, like Brexit only less well publicised. No detail on “how”, “where”, or “when”. No substance, just a catchphrase. Tories sell only headlines.
  7. “Our friends and partners in the European Union” – the fact he says this every time with a totally straight face, knowing perfectly well the EU, because of him, are treated as neither friends nor partners by the UK, is really quite astonishing. In fact if he treats his own friends and partners like he treats the EU then it’s little wonder he’s got through so many of them.

At times it feels like Johnson thinks saying something makes it real, as if he’s conjuring support using magic words, without actually having to prove their worth at all. This is modern Conservatism, politics by catchphrase, by triggering people; real-life tangible action is optional.

If you know of another stock phrase that make syou want to throw something at the telly, please let me know in the comments.

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