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Boris Johnson: Sly, Shaggy & Shifty

Boris Johnson tube

The dawn of November next week marks 6 months until the next general election. It could mark 6 months until Boris Johnson returns to parliament for the first time since 2008. It could mark the beginning of a new political era dominated by ‘Borismania’. It could well mark a new chapter in Johnson’s craving for power and public acceptance.

There was an interview back in March 2013, when Johnson was asked whether he would ever like to be Prime Minister. The following reply was elicited from the charismatic Mayor: “If the ball came loose from the back of the scrum, it would be a great thing to have a crack at.” This typical Johnsonian response seems to show his flippancy; the idea that being the Prime Minister of Britain is something you ‘have a crack at’ is pretty ridiculous. Johnson makes running the country sound like it’s some kind of snobbish hobby – like going sailing or playing a few rounds of golf on the weekend. That being said, Johnson does have a fair chance at attaining this goal. However, he has a few obstacles to overcome before this.

For Johnson to ever attain the position of Prime Minister, he must first take command of the Conservative Party. This in itself is not an easy task as Theresa May and George Osborne have both been seen to be eyeing up the prize. Unless the Conservatives are outright victors in the 2015 election, the rivalry for leadership will certainly come to boil. Johnson has been mixing with the right people in his own eccentric and charismatic way, yet Osborne and May have actually been sitting on the front bench for the last five years which gives them some authority over Johnson.

Shaggy, Shifty pic 2
Johnson and Osborne: Rivals in the party

To even work his way up the party, Johnson must return to Parliament in the upcoming election. He has had a decent run as an MP – from 2001 to 2008 – but his record is not exactly clean. A quick glance at the way in which Johnson voted during his previous time in Parliament tells us he hardly ever rebelled against his party. Could this show his loyalty? My view is that he simply voted along the party line to stay in the ‘good books’ of the party leaders. He sucked up. This does not suggest that he would simply be a quiet ally of David Cameron or any other Conservative leader. In fact, if we look at his relationship with the party leadership during his time as an MP, we see it is far from peaceful. Boris was sacked from his position as Shadow Arts Minister and Party Vice-Chairman in 2004 by, then Conservative leader Michael Howard, over his affair with Petronella Wyatt, and his subsequent incapability to tell the truth.

Even his time as a journalist was turbulent to say the least. Max Hastings – whom Boris worked under as EU correspondent and later as a columnist for The Daily Telegraph – wrote a fascinating article in 2012 entitled ‘If Boris Johnson ever becomes PM, I’m on the first plane out of Britain.’ That tells you enough about Hastings’s view of Johnson but what stood out to me most was the killer blow; “I would not trust [Boris] with my wife nor – from painful experience – my wallet.”  Certainly not a gleaming reference from Johnson’s old boss.

In reviewing his past and what is to come – whether he sweeps the nation by storm or ends up caught in (yet another) thundering scandal – Boris Johnson is stringing the country along with his bumbling voice and shaggy hair. I believe that to Britain’s politically unmotivated and lethargic electorate, Johnson certainly appears to be a fresh, new brand of politician. Yet, I firmly hope – once the PR-finish has worn off and the paint starts to crack – the Mayor of London incumbent will be seen as he is; a manipulative and methodical political powerhouse with high hopes for his own ambition alone. Not to say that he isn’t entertaining; I just hope that entertainment is not mistaken for anything which deserves ‘to have a crack’ at running the country.