This article first appeared on ConservativeHome.
If you’d been a celebrated journalist, a successful editor, a popular television personality and a well-received MP, you could be forgiven for resting on the hard-won spoils of your success. After all, you’ve earned enough to never work again, you’ve got legions of supporters – let’s kick back and enjoy the show, you’d think.
But resting is not in the vocabulary of Boris Johnson. Having put himself up for the position of Mayor of London, he’s waded into a whole heap of unmentionables flung in his direction, not least in the last couple of weeks. From racism to buffoonery, he’s had most of the riot act read to him by the opposition – and unusually, he’s kept quiet. So let’s delve into the crux of the Boris bashing.
Mention Boris’s name to the person nearest you now. Go on. I’ll wager they pricked up their ears – and a small smile may even have crossed their lips. He is, quite simply, an elixir of joy in the tarnished and turgid world of political life. Boriswatch is bursting at the seams with visitors nowadays, all eager to find out a bit more about the man. And it’s a measure of the threat Boris poses to Ken Livingstone that the Livingstone posse have already shot some early salvoes across the fabled boughs of the irrepressible BoJo.
The race card, for instance, has made an early showing with black MPs indicating their manufactured distrust of Boris – and then there’s poor Doreen Lawrence. She not only had to suffer the death of her child in front of a nation – but now she has the dubious honour of being used and abused my Ken’s media machine. Doreen, it seems, has a highly tuned mind and astonishing memory – she manages to quote very old Boris quotes verbatim and, had the words not so opaquely been fed to her, could quite easily have passed for Ken’s biggest fan.
There is, however, an air of excitement at the prospect of Mayor Boris. Sure, a lot of people were banking on Boris for Prime Minister, but they’ll accept this as a good compromise. He represents everything that most politicians aren’t – witty, endearing, piercingly intelligent and eager to talk about issues, regardless of the party line. And it’s this factor, I think, that makes him stand out for the albeit small competition. When he talks, we smile, listen – and agree, even if sometimes we hate ourselves for doing it. He talks common sense, and if we are going to be fair and equal – as Boris’s current chief adversary the Compass group tells us we should – then people have to look past the accent and the public school education and notice the common sense shining through. There is nobody in a better position to help London.
Ah yes, Compass. Gordon Brown’s friends. A group set up to help balance the books on fairness and equality, they seem to be doing all they can to make the Boris vs. Ken contest as unbalanced as possible. First of all, they’ve routed through all the things Boris has said and written – a hefty task, I imagine – and found some off-message opinions. Then, they mixed them up, added a pinch of salt and published them completely out of context. Here’s another little task for you as you munch on your biscuits – go through the quotes they’ve published, and mark all the ones you agree with. You’ll be surprised, given the furore.
But they hadn’t finished there. They went on to describe him as “by far the most right-wing candidate ever to be presented by a major party for mayor of London”. Compassers, tell me – if Boris is “a type of Norman Tebbit in a clownâ€™s uniform” as you put it in the report, how can he be a “threat”? Groups like Compass are by definition hypocritical. They are set up as a vessel of opinion and free speech, but then set about any public figure that they don’t like – thereby attempting to stifle that figure’s right to free speech. Their foray into self-serving publicity has been as fruitful as cheap muesli. It’s a funny old world.
When Compass and Doreen aren’t hogging the press, there’s the age-old “Buffoon Boris” argument. He’s uttered a few marmalade-droppers in his time, it’s true – but wouldn’t you want a mayor who says what he feels, whose genuine opinions aren’t masked by spin? And if we really want to see a Mayor that generates offence, we only need to look as far as the present incumbent. Ask Venezuela, or Oliver Finegold. Even US Ambassadors don’t escape. He’s like the Titanic waiting for an iceberg.
When considering whether Boris should be Mayor of London, a key question is this – why did he go for the job in the first place? Why does he happily put himself in the firing line yet again? It’s not for the money – his media and journalistic career would happily support him. It’s not for the adulation – if anything being Mayor will make him less popular thanks to the many serious decisions that are needed. It’s certainly not for an easy life. The sole reason seems to be that he believes he can really make a difference. He’s seen what Ken has done, knows he can do better and to hell with anyone else. And I admire him just for having the balls to rise to the challenge.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why he should be supported. Boris may have his detractors who can’t understand why on earth he’s a public figure – but for every person that can’t stand him, there are several others waiting in the wings to cheer him on. He’s risen from the ashes more times than strictly necessary in his career – not least because, despite his public school credentials and perceived buffoonery, he talks sense in an entertaining way. Even if you don’t find him entertaining, his bank account, newspaper readership and television ratings would suggest there’s more than enough people out there who do.
Those that throw sticks and shout loudest are usually compensating for something – and we’ve certainly heard enough of Kenneth and his gaggle of die-hard compensators. Vote early, vote often – vote Boris!