‘HERE’S meat, neighbours; fine raw red meat, to turn the tide of tears from your eyes, and make your mouths water.” No, that’s not an inebriated Boris Johnson shouting across the fence to his neighbours, but apparently one of the earliest uses of the phrase that’s making headlines this week. It’s from a 1792 play titled, aptly enough, The Surrender of Calais.

Operation Red Meat is what they’re calling the Prime Minister’s attempt to dig himself out of a huge hole. I’m not sure who exactly “they” are, or if they’re bothered that the phrase is most commonly associated with right-wing populism. They surely must be aware that large sections of the public would rather turn vegan than accept a prime fillet steak from this Prime Minister – a man who has clearly demonstrated that he couldn’t care less about their tears, their bereavements or their struggles over the past two years.

Johnson needs everyone to forget about all that boozing and bopping, and instead focus on how big and tough the Tories are. Oh, and how caring too. Never mind about saving the NHS – it’s now time to save on your household bills!

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First, he’s going to ban bevvying on the job at Number 10. Hmm, we’re not off to a great start on the “make the public forget about all the rule-breaking” front, are we? He’s to stamp out the unacceptable drinking culture that was allowed to prevail under the leadership of some absolute bozo who told his advisors they were overreacting when they urged him to cancel planned parties. Thank goodness someone responsible is now in charge, eh?

The next bit – dubbed Operation Save Big Dog – involves the sacking of some key staff as punishment for organising illegal parties. You have to wonder if the person leaking these supposed operation names to The Times is themselves on the hit list. Couldn’t they have chosen a more graceful code name for the mission, like Operation Soaring Eagle or Operation Phoenix? “Big Dog” brings to mind a hairy brute that goes around humping anything that stands still and habitually leaves behind a steaming mess for others to clear up. Hmm.

So anyway, the plan is for a new broom to sweep clean the floors of Downing Street, which are presumably still littered with cheese crumbs and party popper streamers. But by “new broom” I of course mean the same Prime Minister who attended some of the parties, who from now on will be walking around wearing a pair of microfibre mop slippers over his work shoes.

Johnson apparently said that sacking his principal private secretary, Martin “BYOB” Reynolds, would be like “shooting a beloved Labrador”, but it seems as though Operation Shoot Medium-Sized Dog is to proceed regardless. Needs must, and the party animals must go. Well, the party scapegoats, at least. Not the big dog, or the small dog – are you following?

Boris Johnson apparently did once implore someone to shoot his pet dog Dilyn, after a particularly expensive rampage at Chequers, but we had proof of life this week when the Jack Russell cross was photographed being taken for a walk. (I should probably clarify that it was Dilyn who went on the rampage, not his master ... on that occasion, anyway.)

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Again, we’re not quite managing to erase memories of the specific activities that have made the British public explosively angry, are we? But look, here’s a useful distraction: maverick UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has made a big announcement that the Tory government is riding to the rescue of pensioners who can’t afford to watch TV, after their free licences were cruelly snatched away by … hold on a minute. Wasn’t it her own party that in 2017 made a manifesto pledge to keep TV licences free for over-75s?

They had no business making such a promise, having handed over responsibility for the funding of free licences to the BBC in 2015. Dorries may want readers of her tweet to believe the Tories played no part in “the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors”, but she’s at it. They ducked responsibility, and if they don’t like the choice the BBC made then they have only themselves to blame. Still, the licence fee will be frozen for two years, saving each household £21 a year. Phew! That’s the cost-of-living crisis averted, so what’s next on the agenda?

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The military will take charge of operations in the English Channel in a bid to stop asylum seekers reaching UK shores. If this was the answer all along, one wonders why Priti Patel wasted so much time exploring ideas like obstacle courses and wave machines. Has anyone checked how many trips she made to her local leisure centre to “research” such schemes?

In other exciting developments, Michael Gove is due to publish his Levelling Up plans, a distraction I hereby dub Operation Red Herring but that less cynically minded people in Red Wall constituencies will, I’m sure. take time to scrutinise.

There will be minimal opportunity for scrutiny of Johnson’s reported plan to scrap all Covid self-isolation requirements, as he’ll be looking to rubber-stamp this as soon as the ink has dried on Sue Gray’s eagerly awaited report into his Covid-related personal wrongdoing. Won’t it be convenient if he releases himself from his own voluntary isolation just in time?

The man truly has no shame. Operation Red Meat? More like Operation Red Neck.