(more pictures here)
It was a dark, cold winter’s night last night, and I struggled to find the LWT studios. Boriswatch had been invited to watch Boris’s latest chaotic chairing of Have I Got News For You (on tonight on BBC1 at 9pm) – but had managed to be a full hour late thanks to an equally chaotic train journey. Searching for the building, I finally spied Vanessa Feltz tottering towards me – and I knew I had arrived.
Once inside, I discovered that I was the final person to arrive – and braved the accusing stares from the crowd as they announced the filming could finally begin. Jo Caulfield was the comedian enlisted with warming us up before the main event – and as I slowly defrosted from the wind chill outside I noted the irony of her task. She was surprisingly funny, and we were all well and truly broken in when the panellists (Ian Hislop, Paul Merton, Sara Cox and Phil Hammond) entered to applause. But the biggest cheers were reserved for Boris’s entrance, and he looked pleased that he was clearly the favourite of the audience! He bumbled to his seat in just the manner we expected and we settled down for a great night.
We weren’t disappointed. There was laughter, a surprise “wheel of news” (later named the “wheel of eternity” by Paul Merton) and paper aeroplanes. On almost every sentence, you’ll be pleased to know that Boris entertained, promoting the Conservative party and David Cameron as much as the panellists allowed. There was plenty of “Boris for PM” references, a comment that warmed your hosts’s humble cockles – and plenty of sublime moments, where Boris tried to redeem the situation with cries of “get a grip!”, “in control!” and “my object is to survive!” It was clear that the other panellists were enjoying him as much as we were, and he coined one-liners like there was no tomorrow – many of which I won’t repeat in case I ruin your television schedule tonight… However, Boris came a little unstuck – either intentionally or not, you never can tell – when Phil Hammond asked Boris if he’d ever snorted coke. Boris, ever honest, replied, “A long time ago… unsuccessfully…. I sneezed.” Cue raucous laughter – but a little unease from your Boriswatch host at any future newspaper headlines that might revel in the admission.
Those who’ve watched “The Full Boris” from the “Best of Guest Presenters” Have I Got News For You DVD (and if you haven’t, I fully recommend buying it here) will know that if Boris is chairing, it goes on a while longer than usual. After an hour and half of general confusion (headed, naturally, by Boris), the panellists were flagging a bit – and Paul Merton finally announced that “if we go for another 10 minutes we’ll be going out live…”
After the main event, a few of us went to a drinks reception on the 18th floor of the building – which offered an amazing view over the Thames. Boris was in fine fettle, mixing with the swooning ladies and talking at length to panellist Phil Hammond about health and Henley. Phil seemed genuinely impressed with Boris as a politician – “a breath of fresh air” was just one of the compliments he bestowed on the big Bozza. In fact, Phil was the main surprise of the night – genuinely funny but genuinely interested in people’s welfare and able to speak his balanced mind. A chip off Boris’s block in that respect.
Meanwhile, Ian Hislop was beetling around getting drinks from the bar. There’s no getting around it – he is a short man, but impressed me with his friendliness and how unaffected he was by the fame game.
In fact, I came away thinking about the panellists quite hard. During the show, Boris highlighted the recent MP rich list and pointed out that he was in fourth position – “a pitiful display, hence why I’m doing this show tonight…”. And I came to thinking, not for the first time – we all see these celebrities on television being lauded over, but in reality most of them are just normal people, going about their jobs to earn a crust. It was great to see Ian, Phil and Boris being so… well, normal.
Before shooting back to his wife Marina, Boris took the time to thank readers of Boriswatch for their support, marvel at my “Vote Boris” t-shirt (available here), and commented (in a good way, thank goodness) on Boriswatch’s slight facelift. Yes, Boriswatchers, Boris reads this site too!
One final fact that gives a good insight into the man himself – Boris apparently doesn’t employ a P.R. company to manage his appearances, preferring to manage his own diary. If he gets any more popular, I’d imagine it’ll be a hard thing to maintain, but at least it shows that the Boris we get through our televisions is pure, unbridled, unadultered, fully-featured and undiluted – just the way Boriswatch likes it!