Boris pressgangs Biden at White House love-in

Boris pressgangs Biden at White House love-in
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You can take the boy out of journalism but you can’t the journalism out of the boy. That’s the rule Prime Minister Boris Johnson proved yet again last night in his Oval Office press event with President Joe Biden. 

Steerpike understands that the White House was not expecting the two leaders to field inquiries from the press. Yet the PM appeared to pressgang, as it were, the President into taking a couple of questions at the end of their statements – even if, in their thick masks, it was almost impossible to hear what they were actually saying...

'Would it be ok if we had a couple of questions? Just a couple?' asked Boris hopefully. 'Good luck' Biden shot back tartly. Harry Cole of the Sun and Beth Rigby of Sky News then both asked if Britain would be at the back of the queue when it came to a post-Brexit trade deal. Biden was non-committal: ‘We’d have to work that through' he said. He also reiterated his firm wish to protect the border in Northern Ireland. Plus ca change...

Biden had already spent about a third of the press event relating a not terribly amusing story about how many miles he’d racked up travelling on railroad service Amtrak earlier in his career. It's at least the third time he's told the anecdote at a public event – all the more baffling as the conductor who supposedly congratulated him for traveling 2 million miles on the rail service had, er, died before the story took place. Eager to avoid any diplomatic difficulties Boris remarked that 'they named a station after you' before bringing in the journalists.

Team Biden is almost obsessive about steering the Commander-in-Chief away from direct questions, which is understandable given his near-heroic ability to gaffe when improvising. As soon as the septuagenarian Democrat began to speak, his lackeys barraged the hacks with an interminable round of 'THANK YOU GUYS' to drown out everything he had to say.

So irritated were the self-appointed guardians of journalistic truth at their treatment that they have now registered a formal complaint with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

Never mind the hot air about the durability of the special relationship. A few hours earlier, Biden had ceremoniously ignored shouted questions from the press pack as he sat down with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. His advisers won’t be happy about Boris throwing open their stage-managed shindig to the press.

Still, at least Biden appeared to remember Boris’s name, which is more than can be said Morrison, whom he referred to with artful vagueness as ‘that fellow down under.’ The special relationship endures, somehow.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

Topics in this articlePoliticsboris johnsonjoe biden