A recent YouGov poll showed that Mayor of London and flaxen-haired dubious heartthrob Boris Johnson is the voters’ choice to succeed Cameron as our next Prime Minister. 33% of Tory voters prefer him to any other prospective leader and 24% of all voters would elect for a Boris-led Conservative government, according to the Independent. With his re-election success as London Mayor and soaring popularity following the Olympics (if mine ears didst not deceive me there were actually cheers and chants of “Boris, Boris!” at the parade last Monday) it seems increasingly possible that he could be our next illustrious leader. Many are saying if anyone can save the Tories from being unelectable post-recession, as predicted by harbinger of doom Sir Mervyn King, it’s probably BoJo.
When Boris visited my university several years ago, my dad sternly warned me to be careful around him: “He’s a notorious womaniser!” he glowered over his newspaper. Having assured him that I strongly doubted Boris was coming north of the Watford gap with the sole intention of seducing me, I signed up. Being a person of sound mind and having dipped a toe in student politics, I was in the welcome party for him. He was charming and funny, wonderfully posh and very charismatic. He made love to us all (in the figurative sense, thankfully) and by the time he stood up to give his "why vote Tory" speech to the other few thousand students, we were all eating out of his palm. He spoke fluently and convincingly, and I found myself nodding along vigorously to god-knows-what dreadful anti-feminist policy, so spellbound were we all by his charms.
It is with this self-effacing, bumbling charisma that he wins over so many otherwise anti-Tory voters - the George Osborne boo-ers, the screaming anti-Thatcherites. It’s that mop of hair, ("It is, I fear, impossible to imitate, as it is a product of random and competing forces of nature”), the fact that he stole a cigar case from one of Saddam Hussain’s pals, his Dickensian turn of phrase, the numerous television appearances and his apparent disregard for the social norms of a Conservative politician. He makes us nostalgic for a bygone era, of vicars on bicycles, of saying “What-ho!” to strangers and re-adjusting one’s monocle as one chases down a brigand. (That happened. I’m sure you heard). However, we all know that bumbling Boris is no less of a swine for all his zip-line dangling and knight in shining bike helmet heroics. The man isn’t a buffoon – he’s a PR’s wet dream.
This puts the Tory party in a difficult position – internally he is said to be unpopular but he’s undeniably charismatic and well-liked by voters, which gives him the edge over every other politician to have walked the halls of Westminster since Screaming Lord Such shuffled off this mortal coil. A brief Wikipedia dig under the surface reveals a man who has been involved in nepotism, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, expenses fiddling, extramarital affairs and fabricating evidence at select committees. Miraculously not much of this has stuck, and he has managed to retain his Wodehousian schoolboy scamp image despite the controversy and a less-than universally successful first term as Major of London (Olympics aside). Boris was reportedly widely disliked and unsuccessful during his stint in the House of Commons, mainly due to jealousy over his fame and disfavour in the party arising from his various Borisish antics. A Boris-led government would be divisive – his popularity, which would be unlikely to last with the public, is already thin on the ground in Westminster. Rumour has it that working with him is no picnic, particularly if you happen to be female.
Realistically though, he’d be a truly dreadful Prime Minister. Imagine him addressing foreign dignitaries as picaninnies (true story), or getting stuck in the lift in the Houses of Parliament. He can only just get away with this stuff as Mayor, and isn’t doing a great deal for the image of the Mayoral office. Being PM requires things like having people trust you to fix the economy without making a tits joke about it. He’s even more shifty when it comes to policies, since all anyone really knows is he disagrees with Cameron on, well, apparently everything. He’s all fur coat and no Y-fronts. Eurgh. What he actually stands for remains to be seen, which is probably the most concerning prospect since the Cuban Missile Crisis, given that the likelihood of his succeeding Dave ‘LOL’ Cameron is increasing with every zip line antic and successful sporting event.
Boris is currently happily cycling around ruining London with reckless abandon shouting “Tally ho!” and jousting with the Prime Minister over runways, but move him into number 10 and give him access to that red missile button, and the situation becomes a whole lot worse. The best thing he can do for his Queen and country now is to take some kind of ‘National Court Jester’ dignitary position to keep morale high while we leave the economy to be fixed by a boring sod in Whitehall with a short back and sides.
I fear we may be stuck with him for a while longer, Britain.