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Introducing Boris: the non-political politician

Introducing Boris: the non-political politician

🕔09.Oct 2012

Which national politician would dare, in an age where so many people seem to have the attention span of a gnat and probably think Britain’s Got Talent is the epitome of culture, deliver a speech in near-perfectly constructed English complete with verbs, infinitives in their rightful place and containing many long and difficult words?

Who would refer to “endorphins”, describe tube trains as running with “metronomic efficiency”, speak of London buses as “great big dome-browed beasts”, and lay into Ken Livingstone and his pals as a “Marxist cabal of taxpayer-funded chateauneuf du pape swilling tax minimisers and bendy bus fetishists”? And who would get away with this without being condemned as a corny old ham?

There is only one answer to these questions: I speak, of course, of Boris Johnson, the Tory mayor of London, who has demonstrated once more why, for now, he is a rare example of stardust amid the rather dull and barren Conservative ranks.

His grasp of the English language is quite extraordinary. There’s been nothing quite like it in the Tory party since Churchill. Michael Heseltine, another ambitious politician who nearly made it to Number Ten, was always a great hit at party conferences and hugely entertaining, but Bo Jo is pure Box Office, as the Americans would say.

Here he is addressing conference on the subject of the 2012 London Olympic Games:

“You remember what they were saying? When the buses were on strike and the taxi drivers were blockading the west end. And thousands of security staff seemed mysteriously to have found better things to do. And the weather men were predicting truly cataclysmic inundations on the night of the opening ceremony. And then sometime in that first week it was as though a giant hormonal valve had been opened in the minds of the people. And the endorphins seemed to flow through the crowds. And down the tube trains like some benign contagion.

“Until everyone was suffused with some kind of reddibrek glow of happiness and from then on it was as if nothing could go wrong. And the G4s guys turned up after all. And five million people were shown to their seats without delay.”

It takes some kind of special skill to get ‘suffused’ and ‘reddibrek’ into the same sentence, but there again Boris breaks all of the know rules of modern politics.


Is he after David Cameron’s job? Of course he is, and I for one wouldn’t bet against Boris Johnson becoming the next Conservative Party leader and a future prime minister.

The beauty of his position, and the agony for Mr Cameron, is that Boris must be afforded a walk-on spot at the conference where he can rightly boast about his great achievements in twice being elected mayor of London in a largely left-leaning city.

He reminds the Conservative flock of what is possible, and presents a witty, combative, clever comparison to Mr Cameron’s somewhat stiffer approach to life. If it emerged, and I’m not suggesting for a moment this is the case, that Mr Johnson regularly consumed the finest wines and champagnes that money could buy, went on hugely expensive foreign jaunts and owned mansions in the four corners of the world, people would just shrug and say ‘ that’s Boris, good for him’.

He must certainly frighten Labour to death, since all attempts to portray him as a super-rich idler and buffoon simply rebound to further strengthen the Boris image.

His speech to the 2012 conference stuck, chiefly, to his record as mayor of London. There was also a good deal of praise paid to his old school mate, fellow Etonian David Cameron. But those in the hall can have been left in no doubt that Boris is ‘going for it’ , a fact surely underlined by his decision to stride through the ICC to Symphony Hall, followed by every camera crew and photographer in Birmingham, rather than using the discreet VIP entrance favoured by Government ministers.

Boris has got where he is by brilliantly constructing a man of the people persona. He is a Conservative, but he is everything else and nothing else as well.  He manages to pull of the hardest trick of all for a ‘toff’ – appearing to be interested in and able to communicate with the masses.

But the main reason why I believe Boris could be on the verge of greater things is that he is the right person at the right time in an age when machine party politicians are distrusted and detested as never before. He cleverly gives the impression of being, to borrow Tony Blair’s phrase, a regular kind of guy when he is nothing of the sort.

He is, in essence, the non-political politician.

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