Tuesday, March 30, 2010

“We know you is the mayor” – the political elixir of instant recognisability

Very few attain it: short of the prime minister, only the infamous rascals and rogues of Parliament achieve fame, or notoriety. And even then, it is more often the name rather than the face which penetrates the national consciousness by a process of media inculcation.

Boris Johnson is fast-becoming a national treasure. Some may consider him an idiot, a buffoon, a caricature. But they thought the same of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Yet still they flock from the four corners of the world to kiss her shrine.

The story in yesterday’s Daily Mail is so typically Boris. Apparently, he chased a ‘souped-up Astra’ along the streets of London on his bike after the ‘louts’ had thrown litter out of their window.

What other mayor would do that?

What other national politician would?

What local councillor would?

They only seem to care when there’s a camera around.

But Boris’ instinct is to decry the injustice, to confront the ‘lout’, to reprimand the hooligan and to chastise the recidivist.

And he does so personally: he can’t be bothered with politicians, the police, or interminable bureaucracy:

'Soon the bike had beaten the car, as it always does,' he wrote. As they waited at the next set of lights, I pounded on the window. "Open up!" I cried.

'There were three kids inside, and I could see the culprit goggling up at me with appalled recognition. They lurched off again in the hope of escape, but of course I had them at the next lights.'

The ensuing conversation must have made entertaining listening it indeed unfolded as Mr Johnson - distinctive even with his trademark mop of blonde hair hidden under a cycle helmet - described. It began with the irate mayor demanding the car's occupants open up, then him telling his assailant 'you aren't going to get away with it, I am the mayor!'.

Rolling down a window, the driver replied: 'I know you is the mayor, and it was a accident'.

The conversation then continued on the street, after the culprit offered to get out of the car.

Mr Johnson's asked 'why did you throw something at my head?'

The response, was it seems: 'Please, Mr Boris sir, this wasn't meant to happen.

'We know you is the mayor, man.

'We gotta lot of respect for the things you are doing.'

Not normally one to be lost for words, at this point Mr Johnson appears to have lost his track.

After discovering two of the car's occupants were Derron and Erron, he failed to elicit the name of the third.

He erupted with rage when one of the men told him 'it was only a piece of litter', but only to warn them not to throw litter at people's heads.

All appears to have ended amicably, with the litter louts promising 'we won't do it again' and asking 'can we have a photo, Mr Boris?'

Whether he obliged, the mayor did not say.

What he did say, in his column, was: 'Only a piece of litter, he says, when we all know that the number one environmental concern of the British public - far ahead of global warming - is the tidiness of their neighbourhoods and the plague of litter.

'I don't know what the Astra passenger threw at my head, but whatever it was, it wasn't just a piece of litter. It was a national disgrace.'

It was only four months ago that Mr Johnson saved a woman who was being attacked by a group of hoodies. One of the gang was brandishing an iron bar, but that didn't stop Boris.

In Boris, the Conservative Party has a high-profile, intelligent and personable politician who is a true Conservative of considerable pedigree.

What he speaks is true and what he writes is common sense. And he has a rare gift for a politician – he is lovable. No matter what his faults and failings – and these have been broadcast far and wide - there is something profoundly warming about his personality. In an era where the medium is the message, Mr Johnson speaks Tory volumes.

This is just vintage stuff:

'I don't know what the Astra passenger threw at my head, but whatever it was, it wasn't just a piece of litter. It was a national disgrace.'

And everyone has heard of Boris – even the litter lout in the souped-up Astra. Will they have heard of George Osborne? Or Alastair Darling? No, not at all. They are obscure, undistinguished and indistinguishable from the bland uniformity that politics has become. The characters are being cleansed, individualism eradicated. But, like Diana, Boris has the aura of first-name familiarity about him; not such a one that may breed contempt, but one that endears people to him; one that makes people feel that they somehow know him. There is something cultic about him; to use the vernacular, he has mojo, he creates his own mystery which inevitably yields a loyal following and God knows the Conservative Party desperately needs politicians with whom the electorate wants to engage; politicians who can lead and create disciples.

In an age of cynicism for the political process and disdain for politicians, parties ought to be looking out for those who are instinctively above manipulation, evasion, cunning and deceit, and those who might possess individualism, uniqueness, beliefs of their own, and a personality.

Boris is the people’s politician.

And his being Mayor of London is like trying to put infinite space into a nutshell.

He is destined for much greater things.


Anonymous wonderfulforhisage said...

Were he leader, the Tories would be 25%+ ahead in the polls.

Can anybody imagine Boris worrying his head about rebranding the party.

Hey ho, looks like it will be another five years of the de facto 'Heir to Blair' (Gordon) or the self styled one (Dave). Still, while Boris is about there is light at the end of the tunnel however distant.

30 March 2010 at 09:56  
OpenID Michael said...

I shall never forget the time when Boris, playing in a charity football match, rugby tackled the German right-winger, and was greeted by 5 minutes worth of the 25,000 strong crowd singing 'There's only one Boris Johnson...'

What price certain other politicians would pay for that.

30 March 2010 at 10:06  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace

Your article reminds of an anecdote that I recall reading in the Spectator some years ago.

Conservative activists campaigning on the behalf of Mr Johnson knocked on a door of a potential voter. The door opened and out came an irate citizen. The activists invited him to consider voting for Mr Johnson. The angry citizen shouted:

‘I’m not voting for your lot! My vote’s going to the other lot, what’s his face, Boris!’ promptly slamming the door in their faces.

30 March 2010 at 10:19  
Blogger John M Ward said...

Great story: I like it!

Yes, it is typical Boris stuff; and even I was never quite as adventurous and Gung Ho when I was a local councillor.

Even so, just for the record, most of my best work was done away from the media spotlight; so there are some of us out here that show that Boris is not alone in his attitude.

The community must come first, whether at local, capital city, or national level, and Boris is a constant reminder of that lesson for all elected representatives, just in case they have forgotten the purpose of having such positions within our society.

30 March 2010 at 10:36  
Blogger Curbishlyauto said...

I thought the article was in the Telegraph?

30 March 2010 at 10:41  
Anonymous Graham Davis said...

Cranmer said...
“He is destined for much greater things”.

I fear not; that kind of spontaneous response would never be tolerated in the political catwalk that is Westminster.

PS I hope that you are busy writing a piece on last night’s “great debate”.

30 March 2010 at 10:52  
Anonymous Dick the Prick said...

Your Grace

He is most certainly a top lad but as per Mr Davis - i'm not sure if he is destined for greater things but not because of lack of talent etc but more in the sense of being at peace with oneself. He's already at the top of his game doing a job that must be quite demanding - to look further at this stage would be a conceit, a distraction and an irrelevance.

As Edith sang 'que sera sera'.



30 March 2010 at 11:41  
Anonymous I Albion said...

Good on you Boris! Dicky...I think Edith sang ,non,je ne regrette rien..
Unless it was another Edith,?
But lets hope Boris has non either.

30 March 2010 at 11:58  
Anonymous circus monkey said...

Da man is a legend, innit? Sticking up for da common man (and other law abiding primates).

30 March 2010 at 12:05  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Edith Piaf sang Je ne regrette rien.

So did Norman Lamont. Bad omen...

Richard North has an altogether different take on Boris (nothing new about that from RN, of course), maintaining that he is a single-brain-celled idiot because he should know very well that the real government of this country emanates from Brussels, whereas Boris talks as if Westminster still has power.

30 March 2010 at 12:07  
Anonymous Is it me said...

Rudy Guiliano would be proud of him. I am! Go Boris.

30 March 2010 at 12:08  
Anonymous Is it me said...

Rudy Guiliano would be proud of him. I am! Go Boris.

30 March 2010 at 12:08  
Blogger Gnostic said...

First we see have-a-go Boris and now have-at-you Boris.

Good for him!

Doesn't make him PM material though.

30 March 2010 at 12:33  
Blogger English Viking said...

How sad that the standard of our politicians should have fallen so low that a clown like Boris - an adulterer and proven liar- should be lauded as a possible PM.

It is only the flatness of the surrounding landscape which makes him appear so towering.

30 March 2010 at 13:09  
Blogger Jared Gaites said...

I am with Prince Charles on this one. "The difficulty is telling people to pick up their litter without getting stabbed." Innit!

30 March 2010 at 13:22  
Anonymous philip walling said...

Mr English Viking,

Your views about Boris are wrong. He is a great man destined for great things.

'Clown' you call him? But he is one of the cleverest men in modern politics, and shrewdest: the only way the liberal/left allow you to exist in opposition to them is if you can somehow contrive not to be an open threat, and become a national treasure and/or lovable to people irrespective of your politics - so they can call you a clown or a buffoon, neither of which he remotely is.

Boris is a High Tory of impeccable pedigree, and yet he transcends party precisely because he is so genuine and, I say it again, lovable. Were he leader of the Conservative party they would romp home with a huge majority. He is one of the few men in modern politics (maybe the only one on the Cons. side) who could get lefty liberals to vote for a Conservative candidate.

He is the next but one Prime Minister in waiting.

30 March 2010 at 15:18  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Ah, but would his moral record withstand the Grand Inquisition that is the bane of British Political high office.

30 March 2010 at 16:43  
Anonymous philip walling said...

What 'moral record' Mr Dreadnaught?

30 March 2010 at 17:02  
Anonymous pedant said...

Your Grace is prescient. Boris is the Tories' king over the water. His time will surely come.

As an epicure in matters stylistic, Your Grace will have relished Boris's tightrope walk in that article. How easily it could have been boastful! With what skill and grace he defused the danger! Ars est celare artem, as we say in Scunthorpe.

Boris always reminds me of CJ Fox, another deeply lovable man rich in humanity, able to turn even his failings to advantage.

A Britain led by Boris will be a land of Cockayne, full of cakes and ale and laughter, where the sour Socialists are beaten back to their caves to gnash their teeth in impotent rage and gnaw their horrible finger-ends until they bleed.

Procul O procul, este profani!

30 March 2010 at 17:13  
Anonymous philip walling said...

Mr pedant,

His art is prodigious, but I hope he is more successful than the Jacobites' king over the water, and that he doesn't turn back at Derby, when he has the Capital in his grasp.

He is indeed our champion, rich in humanity, whom we trust to beat the socialists back into their caves and restore some joy to our unhappy land.

Mr Viking, you would do well to heed the last bit of Virgil.

30 March 2010 at 17:33  
Anonymous Oswin said...

I do hope that English Viking will eventually mellow a little towards Boris.

Anyhows, Your Grace, what's this repeated comparison between that demented houri, Diana, and oor Boris?

I feel sure that they do not inhabit the same (searching, and failing to find a suitable word)in the public perception; other than at the most simplistic level of public recognition.

Diana was forever a 'bubble' that would burst, sooner or later; the only 'variable' being the potential toxicity of the 'burst'.

Boris is something of a high-wire act: gifted, courageous, entertaining and strangely adept. His 'fall-off' is not necessarily inevitable; whereas Diana's 'fall-out' was always going to contaminate.

Mini-rant over!

30 March 2010 at 17:41  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Mr Oswin

Diana the 'houri' surely Diana 'the hunted'.

30 March 2010 at 17:48  
Anonymous Atlas shrugged said...

maintaining that he is a single-single brain-celled idiot because he should know very well that the real government of this country emanates from Brussels, whereas Boris talks as if Westminster still has power.

30 March 2010 12:07

Which is a silly thing to say about Boris Johnson because he is self-evidently not single celled, or any kind of idiot.

Therefore BJ is clearly many things, but a liar must therefore be one of them. As we all must surely know this makes BJ in no way any type exception to the Golden Rule. BJ after all is said and done is a highly talented politician if ever there was one.

Have you ever considered what it would actually be like if politicians or any other form of second hand car salesman started telling the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Like for example I ALWAYS DO?

People would undoubtedly think the man had gone clear insane. They would swiftly ignore everything he says as scaremongering nonsense. They would take one look at the word Atlas Shrugged at the top overt their eyes, and then quickly scroll down.

If they did start to engage their higher intellects for once in their entire lives and therefore start to think for themselves for a change. They might hang themselves or stop voting at all and possible start rioting in the streets.

If people where made to fully understand quite how mind controlled or progressively more lied to they have been all of their entire lives, what remains of their consciousness would not be able to handle the sudden feeling of complete powerlessness, and utter stupidity.

People don't like to be either told or understand how stupid they are, and have always been. This is just one of the reasons why conning people is so easy to do.

Flattery is the con-mans greatest weapon.

The truth is

If it ever did matter much who we voted for in the past, it matters less now then it ever did before.

(please note I am not claiming that it does not matter at all. It certainly does matter as far as a few marginal but still important details are concerned)

This is not a message any one in the media especially the BBC, or any group, or individual more directly involved in, or dependant on party politics, would ever wish to give to the public as a whole.

Doing so would be like an owner of a football club telling his clubs supporters that it does not matter to him or anyone else whether his team wins or losses.

The truth that no politician would ever let on, always supposing they knew the truth in the first place is the following.

It really and truly does not matter in the slightest to the ultimate owner, who wins. This simply because the REAL ultimate owners, not only effectively or actually own both teams currently playing the match, they own all of the teams in the entire top league, as well as many of those in the lower one.

30 March 2010 at 17:55  
Blogger English Viking said...

Mr Oswin,

Don't hold your breath.

Mr Phillip Walling,

Johnson was sacked from a previous front bench position, because he not only lied to his wife (who should herself have known better, as she was wife No.2) and four children over one of 'peccadillos', he lied to his electorate and to his Party leader. Repeatedly.

He was complicit in conspiring to have a man beaten by yobs,

He may be a very nice sort of chap, if you like that sort of thing. P.M? God Forbid.

30 March 2010 at 18:07  
Anonymous pedant said...

Mr Philip Walling

Recollect that Charles II was also a king over the water - and live in hope.

30 March 2010 at 18:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cranmer asks "would any other politician do it?"

Well yes - I am an elected Councillor of 8 years standing, and before and after I was elected I have told off litter louts, graffitti 'artists', yobs vandalising property etc, not to mention given first aid to people in trouble (including drunks and druggies).

I am only a 5' 5" woman and there are times when I have been scared to intervene, but have done so. I have been shouted and sworn at, though touch wood so far I have not been hurt, but that will happen one day I am sure. Rarely however has anyone else ever supported me.

Believe it or not not all politicians are venal - many are motivated by a sense of public spirit - and do voluntary and community work in addition to their political duties.

30 March 2010 at 19:04  
Anonymous Oswin said...

Mr. D.Singh....might we then compromise with 'haunted'?

30 March 2010 at 19:12  
Blogger English Viking said...

Mr Philip Walling,

What have The Thunderbirds got to do with it?

30 March 2010 at 20:43  
Blogger adrian said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

31 March 2010 at 02:42  
Blogger adrian said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

31 March 2010 at 02:44  
Anonymous Atlas shrugged said...

People would undoubtedly think the man had gone clear insane. They would swiftly ignore everything he says as scaremongering nonsense. They would take one look at the word Atlas Shrugged at the top overt their eyes, and then quickly scroll down.

You see I was right, that was exactly what you did.

31 March 2010 at 03:29  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Mr Oswin

What a paradox we have arrived at: the goddess of hunting as 'haunted'.

'Haunted' she shall be.

31 March 2010 at 07:52  
Anonymous no nonny said...

I know it as "charm" - in Boris's case, that is. Diana's too, I guess. And I'm so glad not to be the only one who falls for it!

After a lifetime of doing so, I'm thinking that there's more than one kind of charm: some springs naturally, from the heart; some is artificial, or 'sophisticated.' Through Boris and Diana we see the first contrast with the second. The second, that is, as manifested by PR, (cosmetics), and any other obliquities that enhance the iron boots of the commies.

Polarization is one of the logical fallacies favoured by our secular superiors, though. The truth is that a rainbow of factors spans the void between 'true' and 'false' charm. Things like motive, intention, humour, and brilliance further modify the quality of spectrum; and so does context. Influence from 'blue' or 'red' changes shade, tone, and even hue itself.

And then there's the aspect Atlas reminds us of: the micro- and macro-waves that most of us can't see. The observer's ability to perceive affects the effects of charm.

Upshot of it all? I was utterly armed the last time someone called me charming. I didn't buy his used car.

I can't help liking Boris, though. And I bet the litter bugs relish today's story as much as we do.

31 March 2010 at 10:38  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

“Delight as Southall gasworks plan rejected”
The proposal attracted a storm of criticism from residents and councillors, who had grave concerns over the impact of traffic, added congestion and building on polluted land. - YAAAAY for Democracy!


But Then:-

Boris Johnson overruled both Ealing and Hillingdon councils to approve a planning application [PDF] for the Southall Gas Works Site, totally ignoring strong opposition from local people.

.. At the London Planning Awards earlier this week, Boris commented that he had:
‘nodded it though in spite of the fiercest opposition from local people…’

,'Boris is the people’s politician' says His Grace - doesn't sound that way if this is anything to judge by.

Or this:-

A MAYORAL decision to slash the number of new gipsy and traveller sites required in the borough of Bromley has been hailed as a victory for ‘common sense’. - YAAAAY for Boris!

But then:-
In the draft London Plan, Boris Johnson said there was a need to increase the number of pitches across Greater London from 524 to 1,062. – He said what? Then changed his mind?
But after Bromley council fought against the proposals, the number of additional pitches has been reduced 58 (planned to make a total of 94 by 2017), to 17 and the London-wide target for gipsy and traveller sites has been cut from 538 to 238. – Phew!


Boris flying by the seat of his pants as usual – Make a good Prime Minister? - Cripes! He flips more times than MP’s second home – still, he’s an improvement on his mayoral predecessor (but that’s not saying very much)

31 March 2010 at 13:22  

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