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I work at a homeless day centre in central London, supporting rough sleepers with severe mental health issues. In an attempt to distract attention from his continued mismanagement of floods, Boris Johnson decided he would visit us and announce increased funding for rough sleeping projects.
The format was odd, but not surprising, considering his desire to avoid speaking to the public. Instead of visiting the day centre he would speak to five pre-prepared clients and then a 15-minute conversation with five members of staff. I was one. There was no charm or preparation, just bluster and a complete disconnect from the lives of real people.
He swanned in with Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for housing. He boasted his plan to expand Housing First by 6,000 beds would "eradicate homelessness". However, when pressed that this didn't even match the 9,000 hostel beds lost since 2010, he had no reply.
He switched the conversation to increased funding for mental health provision. When I gave an example of a vulnerable client who had been unable to access treatment due to lack of beds, his face started to drop.
Again a change of topic, this time to drugs. In an attempt to dodge a question about the effect of local authority cuts on substance abuse treatment, he called for stricter laws.
One of my colleagues raised decriminalisation in Portugal. Incredibly his reply was "what happened in Portugal?"
When he heard that decriminalisation led to a significant drop in addiction and drug-related crimes, he turned confused to Robert Jenrick and asked: "secretary of state is that true?" Blushing he mumbled: "I think so prime minister".
He made some more poorly informed comments on social housing, then panicked and staggered off when someone said revoke Right to Buy.
Only his media team and the Evening Standard were present. The whole interaction passed unreported and will soon be forgotten.
At least it managed to confirm what I always expected - there is no intelligence or cunning plan, Boris Johnson really is just an idiot.
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Article dated 11 March 2020
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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