Boris Johnson back to old tricks

Boris Johnson back to old tricks
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It's been a busy weekend for Boris Johnson. After the former foreign secretary came under fire over his private life, Johnson appeared to make life more difficult for himself by penning an article for the Mail on Sunday in which he suggested that Theresa May's Brexit strategy was akin to wearing a suicide vest. Various Tory MPs were quick to see red and vow to bring BoJo down.

But Mr S can't help but ask: did Johnson's strategy go to plan after all? Back in 2013, he used a Telegraph article to reveal a great trick he had learned from an Australian friend (AKA Lynton Crosby): the dead cat strategy. When there is a lot of attention on a topic you don't wish for there to be any attention on, it's best to distract everyone by doing something really outrageous:

'Let us suppose you are losing an argument. The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case. Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner describes as “throwing a dead cat on the table, mate”.

That is because there is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table – and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout “Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!”; in other words they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.'

With today's political programmes focussing on Johnson's 'suicide vest' comments rather than his reportedly close friendship with a Tory aide, you could say the dead cat has come through for Johnson once more.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from London and beyond. Email tips to

Topics in this articlePoliticsboris johnsonuk politics