'Remarkably childish': Boris Johnson criticised over Kermit the Frog joke in climate change speech

Boris Johnson has been branded “remarkably childish” after the prime minister name-checked Kermit the Frog in a speech about climate change.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York in the early hours of Thursday, Johnson was talking about technological breakthroughs which have aided the green cause when he launched into an aside about the Muppet character.

He said: “When Kermit the Frog sang ‘it’s not easy being green’…”

Looking up at his audience, the PM, apparently uneasy, asked: “Do you remember that one?”

Boris Johnson joked about Kermit the Frog in his UN General Assembly climate change speech. (Getty Images)
Boris Johnson joked about Kermit the Frog in his UN General Assembly climate change speech. (Getty Images)

He continued: “I want you to know that he was wrong. He was wrong. It is easy, not only easy – it is lucrative and it’s right to be green.

“But he was also unnecessarily rude to Miss Piggy, I thought.”

Rhetorical flourishes in serious speeches are nothing new from the PM.

In March last year, at a Downing press conference at the very beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Johnson described “squashing that sombrero” in reference to rising COVID-19 cases on an imaginary graph.

The Kermit comparison, it should be noted, was only one part of a 2,195-word speech in which the PM warned earth is not “some indestructible toy”.

Nonetheless, it prompted Labour's shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy to say: “After a year of diplomacy, the prime minister’s ‘year of global leadership’ [the UK hosted the G7 summit in June and will host the COP26 summit in November] seems to have collapsed into insulting Kermit the Frog.

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“No trade deal. A disastrous G7. Imagine almost any prime minister in a crisis of this magnitude, with this little to say.”

Labour backbencher Chris Bryant also told the BBC's Politics Live show: "Climate change is undoubtedly the defining issue of our generation. I’m pleased Boris Johnson is finally seeming at least to take it seriously, though his speech yesterday was remarkably childish, I thought, all that stuff about Kermit.

"Sometimes I just feel, if he could only dedicate himself with seriousness, and use all the energy that is good with him, but with serious endeavour, then he would achieve far more."