No, calling Boris Johnson ‘a fighter’ is not offensive

It is a harmless platitude. It is not intended to shame those who die of coronavirus.



Even amid the coronavirus crisis, the British media have found plenty of stupid things to talk about. Earlier today the topic of discussion was why there aren’t enough women fronting the daily government briefings. But easily more stupid than that has been the outrage expressed at a comment made last night by Dominic Raab, who is deputising for prime minister Boris Johnson while he’s in hospital with coronavirus.

Raab tried to lift spirits by giving a heartfelt tribute to the prime minister, referring to him as a ‘friend’ and ‘a fighter’. It was a harmless platitude. But it got up the nose of commentators from across the political spectrum, who claimed that it ran the risk of presenting those who die of coronavirus as somehow weak and inferior. One went so far as to say it ‘lay the blame for those who die on their lack of commitment’.

No, it really, really doesn’t. No one sensible who heard Raab’s tribute would think less of those who tragically succumb to the disease. Because we are not literal-minded idiots. The British media really are not having a good war.

Picture by: Getty.

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Christopher Tyson

9th April 2020 at 11:12 am

I thought this was a non story, but then Emily Maitlis took everything up a notch on last night’s Newsnight. I think a moderate use of metaphor and cliché is not a problem, of course where a metaphor is over-extended the wheels may drop off, you throw the baby out with the bath water and before you know it you’re on your way to hell in a handcart.
Using metaphors of war and combat around coping or suffering disease is something that some people become aggrieved by, but it’s still very much what people do in the media and in real life. It seems that the jury is out, however, when someone is talking about a friend, relative or colleague, it seems pretty pedantic and insensitive to nit-pick about their vocabulary. The language that is used in charity campaigns and the like should be open to scrutiny. Maitlis’ previous allegiance in this metaphor, erm, battle, is not something I’m aware of. She’s also keen to point out to us that the lockdown is causing particular hardship to those less advantaged in society, well who would have thunk it? Did Maitlis take issue with her media colleagues who relentlessly pressed the government for a faster and more extensive lockdown? Did she highlight the problems that people would face? Does she police the use and mis-use of metaphor by her colleagues in the media? Or is it perhaps the fact that the ‘culprit’ was a Tory cabinet minister that attracted her ire? Maybe I’m rhetorical, maybe not, I mean I would be generally interested and amazed if Emily Maitlis responded to my questions.

Gordon Le Gopher

9th April 2020 at 1:38 am

“…Can we wish Boris Johnson a full recovery without all this “He is a fighter” nonsense, which suggests that those who die because of horrible illnesses somehow just didn’t put up enough of a fight, which is obviously nonsense…”

OJ finally starting to realise his tweets are obviously nonsense! Promising…

Glenn Bell

8th April 2020 at 11:15 pm

I am sick to death of the morons who work in the media, I had hoped that after all the ill feeling they generated via the nasty rubbish they concocted during Brexit and the last election they might have seen the light but all they see is themselves and money. I stopped reading newspapers and watching TV news months ago.

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Stephen Elliott

8th April 2020 at 7:01 pm

Someone tell these tests that Boris had not yet survived Covid 19.

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8th April 2020 at 7:02 pm


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Jim Lawrie

8th April 2020 at 6:29 pm

There are plenty of women fronting the Scottish government daily briefings. You are welcome to the lot of them, and I’ll drive them down myself.

Jonnie Henly

8th April 2020 at 6:22 pm

Another Spiked article which obsessed over Owen Jones.

You’d think during a pandemic even they would have more important things to say than ‘Owen Jones said something and we don’t like him. Boo.’

But no.

Ven Oods

8th April 2020 at 6:16 pm

“Even amid the coronavirus crisis, the British media have found plenty of stupid things to talk about.”
It’s their raison d’etre and their MO all rolled into one.

David J

8th April 2020 at 6:06 pm

Excellent plan, even I really expect us to be plagued by his inane wittering for years to come.

Mark Beal

8th April 2020 at 5:16 pm

I can’t help but hope that Owen Jones will continue to self-isolate after the Covid-panic ends. Preferably without an internet connection.


8th April 2020 at 6:07 pm

Have some compassion Mark. It must be absolutely terrible waking up in the morning and thinking: ‘Oh shit! I’ve got to make some snarky comment about the news today, however fatuous it is.’

Jonnie Henly

8th April 2020 at 6:19 pm

But enough about Brendan.

Ven Oods

8th April 2020 at 6:17 pm

I look on Owen as the irritant grain of sand that produces the pearl within the oyster.
Of course, that does make me an eternal optimist.

Jonnie Henly

8th April 2020 at 6:19 pm

Owen Jones triggers sensitive right wingers like no-one else.

It’s remarkable.

Jonathan Marshall

9th April 2020 at 2:45 pm

Rather in the same way Brendan seems to trigger you, in fact…

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