September 21, 2012

Horse 1365 - Boris

Boris Looking Regal - From Instinctmagazine (Without Permission)

I like Boris Johnson. I like Boris as a character, a writer and a thinker; maybe not so much as a politician though.

Boris has been Mayor of London in a period of boom and has ridden the wave of acclaim that comes from holding the Olympic Games to much success. He has also been in oversight of a city which has undertaken a new wave of transport infrastructure building with the construction of Crossrails 1 and 2.
Boris though is an old school Tory, cut from the same cloth as Lord Stanley, Disraeli and Balfour. For this reason, In the 21st Century, he doesn't fit into modern politics all that well, let alone the current Conservative Party. I suspect that he would have fit into a Churchill cabinet nicely because being an older style of conservative, he stands for preserving the grand  institutions which hold pomp and power and preserving the status quo, rather than as the current crop of Tories who would prefer to reduce the scope of government by simply applying the axe to the  budgets of everything under its control. From an academic standpoint of economics he does write about giving firms the freedom to go about their business unimpeded but he writes more about the state being cohesive enough to provide the environment for that to happen.

Polls last week came to the conclusion that if Boris were to win a seat in the Commons and make a tilt for the Premiership, that the Tories would enjoy a groundswell of popularity and win government in their own right.
This unfortunately would mean that Boris is the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is minister without portfolio and thus a Tory Johnson Cabinet would look broadly similar to a Tory Cameron Cabinet, save for Cameron himself probably being Chancellor of the Exchequor. Boris would still be selecting from the same pool of MPs as any other Tory Prime Minister.

Despite being a Tory; who are suffering a current wave of unpopularity (and who could only form government in coalition with the LibDems; following the MP expenses scandal), somehow he has managed to convince the electorate that although he appears eccentric and a bit of a bumbling fool, that underneath he is actually some sort of magnificent master of puppets, when in reality he is really only the head of a statutory legal body; one which just happens to contain "The Square Mile" and thus the vast bulk of economic decisions and power held in the UK. The Olympics themselves were bankrolled by the nation rather than the City.
Boris was also helped somewhat by PR provided by the BBC when he appeared on Have I Got News For You. He was able to do so at the time because he was only a backbench opposition MP who didn't even have a Shadow Cabinet portfolio to look after. Almost like the fable of the grasshopper who sung and danced during the summer, Boris very effectively courted the media and since becoming Mayor of London, his appearances on such programs have been reduced to a trickle. I think that it is not unreasonable that after politics, Boris should move to BBC Radio Four and shows like Just A Minute or I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, much like the late Clement Freud did, when the need to play the media game for political gain will have passed.

Then again, politics has always been about managing PR. Churchill is mainly remembered for his great speeches in the Commons rather than his time in the admiralty when he was responsible for sending thousands of men to be butchered in the Dardenelles and yet history regards him with kindness; whereas history regards  Chamberlain with disdain despite him delaying the war for two years, which was utterly critical at a time when there was no way in 1937 that Britain would have even cone close to defending itself. If the Battle of Britain had been fought in 1938, the RAF would have only have had Fairey Battles at its disposal and not Hurricanes or Spitfires.
History also tends to regard  Macmillan kindly despite Dr Beeching's axe to British Railways which effectively destroyed one of the greatest legacies of the Victorians and which the county is still desperately hurting from half a century later.
History largely doesn't regard statesmen by what they actually did until long after they have passed.

I suspect that Boris will not even  challenge for a seat in the Commons whilst he is still Mayor of London because the PR result from being in a current Tory government would be terrible. It would make sense for him to play the more boring and safer game of patience.
The election in 2015 is far away enough that he could invent some new shiny propaganda campaign (maybe casting himself as a Tory "Third Way" like Tony Blair did with New Labour) and like some valiant knight coming to save the fair maiden of politics, he'd sweep the light fantastic, skid the light fandango and take up residence at Number 10.
Then everyone after a while notice that Boris really is an old school Tory and that nothing would change insofar as much as it would remain exactly the same. A Johnson Premiership would retain the status quo and although nothing new would be done, at least there'd be a new wave of eccentric sound bites on the six o'clock news. If it never happens, Boris will have written himself into history though more for being a character than for the scope of his job, which in the grand scheme of things is materially less than it is made out to be.

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