Boris Johnson and the revenge of the school librarian

Has a savvy school librarian or English teacher snatched a golden opportunity to have a pop at the PM in front of the nation?
26th August 2020, 3:35pm

In this strange new world of virtual interviews and buffering livestreams, politicians might think that a backdrop of a bookshelf helps them to look credible.

But the books on display behind Boris Johnson during his speech at an East Midlands school today suggest the librarian, or perhaps a disgruntled English teacher, had other ideas.

Addressing students this afternoon, the prime minister spoke of Ofqual’s “mutant algorithm”, which he said “almost derailed” this year’s results.

PM: Exam grades ‘almost derailed by mutant algorithm’

Exams crisis: U-turn will mean A-level and GCSE teacher grades stand

In full: Ofqual’s A-level and GCSE U-turn statement

Meanwhile, the bookshelf behind him seemed to make a statement of its own.

Lining the shelf just behind Mr Johnson’s head were titles with rather unflattering associations for any political leader, including “The Twits”, “The Subtle Knife”, “The Resistance”, and “Betrayed”.

And sticking out like a sore thumb was “Fahrenheit 451”, a dystopian novel about a society where books are banned.

WATCH PM @BorisJohnson‘s live address to school students in England.

- UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) August 26, 2020

If you look closely, “Guards! Guards!”, a Terry Pratchett novel, can also be glimpsed behind the PM’s right shoulder.

The story follows a plot by a secret brotherhood to overthrow a corrupt patrician and install a puppet king.

And what about “Hero.Com: Crisis Point” - part of an Andy Briggs series where “super powers carry super responsibilities”?

Did you spot “Glass Houses”? Granted, this one is a vampire novel. But could the famous proverb - “those who live in glass houses should not throw stones” - be a comment on Boris’ harsh criticism directed at the exam regulator?

And could Dickens’ “Oliver Twist”, famous for its heartbreaking line: “Please, sir, I want some more”, be tactically placed on Boris’ left to remind us of the government’s free school meals U-turn, sparked by star footballer Marcus Rashford?

Some might say even the most imaginative author could not envisage the events of the past few weeks in the education world.

But somebody, perhaps, felt they had a story to tell the nation today.

And all behind the PM’s back.