I’ve discovered the true – eco-friendly – legacy of Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson tests out the wooden truck for son Wilf, 4
Boris Johnson tests out the wooden truck for son Wilf, 4, which was built by Harry's Original Timber Shop - Instagram
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Almost a year since he resigned as prime minister, five years since he led his party to election victory, 23 years since he became a member of parliament and with more water under the bridge than flows over the Niagara Falls, and at last Boris Johnson has hit on an issue that can unify us all.

His unexpected legacy was revealed this week on his wife Carrie’s Instagram page. In a post to celebrate their eldest boy Wilfy’s fourth birthday, one of the pictures she published showed a large wooden fire engine. There in the garden was an immovable, fixed gem of a toy, commissioned by the Johnsons and built by Harry’s Original Timber of Canvey Island. It arrived unpainted but Carrie, over several nights with the kids safely tucked in bed, took out her brushes and some pots of yellow, black and red paint and finished the job.

Boris also lent his image to the publicity machine posing at the wheel with his trademark, slightly deranged thumbs up and village idiot grin. And thus, if he can help rally the Western world to the cause of Ukraine, he can surely mobilise the planet in support of wooden toys.

Harry himself is both overjoyed and overwhelmed at the publicity and is now racing to fabricate more items. His Etsy shop page features pirate boats, mud kitchens, cars and a helicopter; items which reflect his company’s mantra: “We believe in shopping small, staying local and most of all recycling as much as possible to create less waste in the world.”

That 90 per cent of all toys are made from plastic is a verifiable fact. And here’s another: 80 per cent of toys made in 2019 ended in waste or landfill. So within five years of the gifting, most of them are sitting crushed under the weight of other stuff that will take some 500 years to decompose while leaking horrid stuff into the earth and our waterways.

And here’s another, albeit unverifiable, fact, based on my own research, otherwise known as tidying up after and separating arguing boys; 95 per cent of plastic gifts are rendered of no interest or value when compared to something another child has in the near vicinity – and that could be a remote-controlled car or a handful of gravel.

So it might as well be wooden and sustainable and charming and ergonomic. And then it won’t also be some kind of terrifying plastic thing with batteries that makes a noise. While these items are delicious to children, they are the only things, other than scrumpy, that make me violent.

Then how do we spread the word, get others to climb aboard the Bojo wooden train? For it is an etiquette minefield. Godparents, uncles and aunts, grannies and grandpas feel the need to gift our sprogs at birthday and Christmas. So in piles a heaving mass of plastic. And these relatives and friends can be cogently intelligent people. But still they invest in plastic. Last Christmas, one godparent to a child of ours (a woman of serious style, taste and intellect) bought our five-year-old a plastic saxophone covered in buttons that made a cacophony of noise that would elicit a surrendering confession from the toughest of spies. I can only assume she did it to annoy me. Mysteriously, the toy had disappeared by Boxing Day lunch.

Is it acceptable to send a message saying: “Please, no plastic toys, just books or wooden objects.” Well, I would say yes, especially if you can direct them to the likes of Harry or the British Toymakers Guild. Or suggest they start a wine fund.

But reality bites and what can you do when your child comes home from a friend’s birthday with a party bag filled with globe sticks, squeaking pigs, little plastic pots of Play-Doh and a unicorn wristband? My grandstanding would backfire on my poor children. “Don’t ask those kids again,” they’ll say, “their father is that no-plastic Nazi.”

And how does this play politically, in the nursery? Suggesting that a wooden pirate ship constitutes birthday and Christmas for two years doesn’t go down well and the child will suffer with it until they have some unresolved trauma therapy in their Thirties.

But if you can, please spread the word, do as Boris does: reject the plastic. And I’ve got a fine and apt campaign slogan for his legacy: Get wood!

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