What ho, Boris!

Boris Johnson is going to be Prime Minister one day. You watch him. News last week that he had beaten Ken Livingstone to become the new Mayor of London told serious political analysts what most viewers of Have I Got News For You have known for years: Boris is possibly the most likeable politician in Britain.

Lazy (and possibly racist) media shorthand that endlessly trots out the ‘dour Scotsman’ cliché aside, Gordon Brown is simply less of a laugh. Crucially, so is David Cameron. And the smartest thing the Tories could do now is ditch their current bicycle-bothering leader in favour of one who doesn’t just cycle for an environmental photo-op but publicly suggests getting in Navy Seals or Sharia law to deal with bicycle thieves in London.

There, Boris was, of course, not taking the traditional Tory line of being tough on crime to a new level, but joking. And a comment posted on the Guardian website shows how important this is. ‘There is hardly anything Boris Johnson appears to believe that I support,’ the comment said, ‘But at least Boris makes me laugh…’ And that sentiment is one I have heard again and again from friends in London: ‘I wouldn’t ever normally vote Conservative, but I do love Boris.’

This is more than a comment on one man’s popularity, though. It demonstrates a societal shift from politics to personality. Labour understood it with Blair and then started resting on their laurels, presuming they were still in power because the electorate cared about social welfare. The Conservatives have been more savvy recently, but have also been hamstrung by old-style thinking that anyone but media commentators and politicians themselves give a monkey’s about anything as prosaic as political philosophies.

For a few years now we’ve been hearing how David Cameron is a shoe-in for Downing Street and a perfect choice for Tory Grand High Vizier, mainly because he’s ‘nice’. But let’s be honest: how many of us believe that just because he’s ‘nice’ that changes anything about the Conservative Party that we may not have liked? But with Boris it’s a different story. Compared to him, Cameron’s ‘niceness’ is just a charisma-void on a bike. Boris is an original. Boris is a star. Hang his policies (or lack thereof)!

Of course, Red Ken’s defeat had much to do with people being sick of Labour and his foolish decision to rejoin them. One commentator last week said that Livingstone got in as a result of voters wanting to punish New Labour, and he was dumped for exactly the same reason. There’s something in that. And one hopes that while both parties clearly need to take stock again of what the public want from them, Labour will take a different tack.

In a social climate where the environment is on the top of everyone’s agenda, where selfishness is being challenged by the powerful idea of justice, not just for ourselves but for our poor neighbours; in a country where people are increasingly sick of the wealthy and their businesses riding roughshod over the poor and the ordinary; Labour could safely go left again.

And in a culture where celebrity is worshipped , where ideals are considered ‘boring’ and many people have given up their political responsibility, no longer caring about politics, the Conservatives could genuinely go glamorous and win.

And in the spirit of contemporary politics, both parties could borrow from each other, returning to their political roots and engaging with a dumbed-down celebrity culture.

Think of it: parties actually saying what they mean and being entertaining in the process. Boris and Clarkson vs Mark Steele and Bono. The public’s ever-receding interest in democracy, while ultimately ruinous, could at least prove entertaining.


One Response

  1. Jonty, you beast!

    Long time no read… I used to work for Tim Woods in the advertising department; d’you remember?

    Nice to see you around again.

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