Boris Johnson waved around a smoked kipper during the final Tory leadership hustings of the campaign and followed the bizarre move with an even stranger rant about “pointless, expensive, environmentally damaging” EU regulations.
The prime ministerial front-runner gave his opening statements, before the former foreign foreign secretary leaned behind the lectern and brandished the smoked fish in a clear plastic bag.
He told the audience of Tory members:
I want you to consider this kipper, which has been presented to me just now by the editor of a national newspaper, who received it from a kipper smoker in the Isle of Man who is utterly furious because, after decades of sending kippers like this through the post, he has had his costs massively increased by Brussels bureaucrats who have insisted that each kipper must be accompanied by a plastic ice pillow.
Waving an “ice pillow”, he added: “Pointless, expensive, environmentally-damaging health and safety, ladies and gentlemen.
When we come out, we will not only be able to take back control of our regulatory framework and end this damaging regulatory overkill, but we will also be able to do things to boost Britain’s economy, which leads the worlds in so many sectors.
Boris Johnson’s damage control strategy, which he revealed in 2013, is to “throw a dead cat on the table”.
In a recently resurfaced interview, he said:
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.
People don't quite know what's going on anymore.
Dead cat, dead fish. Potato, potahto.