Coffee House

Good Boris

4 October 2011

Boris Johnson must be one of the very few politicians in the world to make the audience
laugh before they even start their speech. Just by walking on stage, he has the effect of a good comedian: the punters start to smile, in anticipation of some good one-liners. In today’s
case, Boris got a standing ovation before he opened his mouth. Here is the man judged by Ladbrokes as the most likely next Conservative leader,
but he had not come to stir. The Prime Minister – who lavished praise on the Mayor last
night – was in the hall. It was all Big Society (BoJo division): affordable housing and a reprise of his January speech about restoring London’s identity as a union of villages.
But, he sounded several clear notes of defiance. He opened on his opposition to police cuts: he’s appointed 1,000 new police and doubled the number of dazed-looking special constables to
5,200 “and I pledge now that I am going to keep it that way.” He was tough on crime, Boris-style. “My message to London’s criminal fraternity is: tax and insure your car or
you’ll get it back for Christmas as a small cube from the crusher with love.” There was a tribute to the small people who stood up to the rioters. “It was the woman who made that
great speech in Hackney and scared them off”. He was talking about Pauline Pearce, whom Safraz Manzoor interviewed for The Spectator
Another sentence jumped out at me. “If we can get the right tax and regulatory framework, then British enterprise will do the rest.” In other words: cut tax, cut regulation and recovery
will follow. You don’t need politicians thinking about which sectors of the economy to develop, seeing the British economy as a chess board and trying to move the pieces about. This gives a
glimpse to Boris’ economic agenda: he’s a great believer in economic freedom, and isn’t vain enough to think that the political class could or should try to reorder the economy.
He didn’t elaborate, though. He doesn’t need to: not now, anyway.
I suspect there was nothing in this speech to dissuade Toby Young of the thesis he outlined in the cover story for last week’s magazine: that Boris Johnson wants to lead the Conservative Party and
will succeed. The Mayor was smart enough not to let any of this peek through his speech. This was well-behaved Boris, no wonder Cameron was so quick to leap lead the ovation.
PS: One problem with the new era of party conferences — ie, a money-spinning jamboree for the political class with hardly an activist in sight — is that you can’t
meaningfully talk about the ‘mood of the hall’.  The hall is now filled with journos or lobbyists, and it was half-empty for Boris today.

PPS: There is another addition to the Bigger Book of Boris, which I bought from Iain Dale
yesterday: “I will deliver progress for all the people of this City. Errr, actually not this City, this is Manchester."

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Show comments
  • ralph perry robinson

    Yes James but at least Reagan brushed his hair.

  • James Delingpole

    Yeah, and while we’re making pompous, ex cathedra pronouncements on why Boris’s comedy persona renders him entirely unsuitable for the office of Prime Minister, what about that Ronald Reagan? Imagine what a disaster it would have been if Reagan had ever got to be US president – what with his perpetual joking and his laid-back manner and his terrible habit of reducing complex political ideas to folksy aphorisms that even ordinary folk could understand. Luckily the American people saw sense and never voted for him. Just like all you visionary seers declaring your principled and wise objection to Boris. How splendidly clever you must feel!

  • Baron

    If you desperately want someone who makes you feel good, how about Ken Dodd, ha?

  • Verity

    Salopian – What a silly post. PMQs with Boris and Red Ed the Laurel & Hardy Show? Ever noticed that Boris is witty and has a wide frame of reference?

    And why, no longer constrained by being Mayor of London to show an example by biking, would he not be in the Prime Minister’s car?

    It baffles me why people like you post here.

  • Salopian

    It’d be wonderful to see Boris coming out of Number 10 with his headgear and bike trailing one of those dinky little buggies full of redboxes. But come on CostaCoffee lovers – can you really see it.

    Imagine PMQs Boris and RedEd – the Laurel and Hardy show.

  • Verity

    To repeat what Vulture said, unlike Dave, Boris won his election.

    He can win a much bigger election next time round. Dave is a dog’s breakfast.

  • Andre

    I’m tempted to agree with James Strong – but Boris makes people feel good about themselves and his manner implies we can fight back, win and prevail. Opposition politicos are a joke – a sick joke maybe. Cameron presents little gravitas and is mistrusted. So looking to the future Johnson has what it takes in PR terms and in substance – if his achievements as London mayor stand up to audit then he may well be our next PM.

  • Cogito Ergosum

    I second your replay to James Strong.

    Harold MacMillan could bring the house down when he so wished; and a moment later be deadly serious.

  • Maggie

    There are a number of 20-something young men in the Conservative Party who are very similar to the former members of the defunct Federation of Conservative Students. For some reason or other they’ve all got a massive crush on Boris and are blind to his many faults.

  • Chris lancashire

    James strong: Absolutely correct. Clowns not needed.

  • Vulture

    @James Strong:

    In that case, James, perhaps you can explain how this buffoon got Labour voting London to vote for him. Unlike Dave, he won his election.

  • Hard, Heartless Perry


  • James Strong

    The first sentence of the article explains why Boris Johnson will not lead the Conservative Party.

    He is very bright, he has good right-wing instincts, but he provokes laughter.
    That is a quality that serious and successful politicians do not aspire to.

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