Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Boris: Both a 'Nasty Piece of Work' and Endlessly Charming Chameleon

Boris Johnson is certainly a phenomenon in British politics. Ian Hislop says he's 'our Berlusconi' only funnier'
Maybe, I think he's a tiny bit like Chauncey Gardener, the Peter sellers character in Being There who fooled everyone into thinking he was wise when his head was empty.

Yet Boris is clearly a very clever chap so is it all a pose in a fiendish plot to capture the towering heights of the nation? I saw the BBC interview on Sunday and unlike the Guardian did not think Boris's interview was a 'cycle crash': I thought he handled it as usual, rolling with the punches, smirking and shrugging away accusations which would have sunk a lesser man. I also saw the BBC profile last night and thought it a (transparently) collective effort by his family, using the rugby playing analogy favoured by Boris, to hoist him in the line-out to catch that ball he years for to snaffle and carry over the line into Number 10.

Boris is astonishing in his ability to elicit smiles of recognition and of pleasure: he cheers us up. 'What the fuck are you doing her Boris?' is a line used by a drug dealer, pleased notwithstanding, during an early morning police bust which included the publicity hungry old Etonian. He reaches outside the tie-wearing, blue rinsed confines of the Tory tribe and makes everyone smile. Me too? Me too. So much chutzpah, you've got to warm to it, even if he is a ruthless, egotistical unreconstructed bed-hopping old fashioned Tory.

I was surprised Sonia Purnell, his unflattering biographer, was not included in Cockerell's piece. She got her say in the press:

Yet there are other reasons for Johnson to want to "get on with it" – not least the danger that his gilded reputation, which has won him two victories in London, may be about to lose its shine. A recent public meeting in Catford, south-east London, saw an embattled mayor branded a "coward" for failing to stand up for a hospital facing closure. Looking uncharacteristically uneasy, he endured a barrage of heckling and boos from the crowd over other subjects too, from police and fire cuts to wasting public money on vanity projects like his underused cable car. There is always a moment when a politician's actions (or lack of them) finally catch up with him, and this was the first major indication Johnson's may not be far off.

But it did included Max Hastings, Boris's former boss at the Telegraph, Hastings was clear, like Conrad Black (so he's persona grata again is he?) that Boris was a lovable rogue and no reference made to his view expressed in the ST some time ago that he would emigrate to Canada if Boris ever became PM. Michael White today in The Guardian however, thought he had spotted the guy's achilles heel:
"...between them Cockerell and Eddie Mair have exposed the mayor's achilles heel. It is that he needs to be liked. Thus Johnson handled Cockerell's awkward but civil questions competently enough, yet fell apart haplessly when Mair asked similar questions with scorn on Sunday. He crumpled when facing hostile crowds after the London riots. To Livingstone's amazement, Johnson felt the need to placate him too after their campaign spat. "A breathtaking weakness," Livingstone called it. Plenty of Tories sense weakness beneath the bravura. They will take comfort from the past 24 hours. The heir apparent is not yet world king.-


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