He crawls! He creeps! He says reporters talk “fucking bollocks” live on television! Run, don’t walk (and don’t fall over), because Boris Johnson is…
As today’s London Mayoral elections head to the close, it looks like BoJo might be in for another term. According to the latest YouGov polls for the Evening Standard, Boris looks set to hand-off Ken Livingstone by 53-47%. And all this, after a typical series of gaffes, scandals and slip-ups that show how little our Mayor is in touch with the average Londoner, as opposed to the City, NewsCorp and big money.
And yet he is successful. Why? Because – like The Blob, the 1958 teen horror classic in which a interstellar spoonful of rogue strawberry jelly reeks havoc on small-town America – whatever hurts Boris, only seems to make him stronger.
Boris Johnson is indestructible.
Boris is funny, isn’t he? When he falls over, he becomes more like us. When he cusses on telly, you can start to imagine him as the village drunk sat at the bar. And his hair is funny too.
But when a piece of information emerges which is actually damning, personality cult shields him from resignation. Like the 1990 telephone conversation between Johnson and old pal, Darius Guppy, who asks Boris (then a Telegraph journalist in Brussels) to give him a News of the World hack’s details so he can have him beaten up. Boris makes sure the journalist won’t be too badly hurt (he wasn’t in the end), but this still looks like one of the uglier sides of the old boys’ network.
Gaffe after gaffe, scandal after scandal, Boris survives them because of his image as the bumbling, shoulders-hunched, floppy-haired toff. The electorate seem to respond well to him because he is a posh person with an air that he knows he’s a bit silly – with some wit and irony thrown in – which gives him much more democratic appeal than an inveterate Tory snob like a Cameron, Osborne or – most absurd of them all – Jason Rees-Mogg. Even his strongest detractors (Ken included) will criticize him with a smile.
So often the image (and personality cult) of Boris can completely hide the regressive, ignorant and negative things he actually says.
Boris Johnson is indescribable
Remove yourself from the collective memory of British politics for just one second and Boris Johnson – like a lot of the Tory cabinet – is an indescribable success.
He quotes the classics on Question Time to justify government policy, he was a member of the Bullingdon Club’s Class of ‘87 (alongside David Cameron and a host of MPs, bankers and child actors) and he believes indescribable things, like his £250,000 annual salary (for a second job, writing broadsheet articles) being “chickenfeed.”
In a time of (now double-dip) recession, austerity measures and high unemployment, this kind of thing should not go by the wayside. Many people across the country are still scratching their heads as to how the old lie still has legs after an austerity package that was meant to sky-rocket growth ended up in recession.
But taken more literally, Boris is actually indescribable. There is something darkly funny – but also worrying – about the fact that inept and ignorant rich men can still be running the country in the 21st-century. Is time travel possible?
After all, Boris looks like he’s just walked out of the Regency, like a stock-character from an 18th-century drawing-room ditty about two starred-crossed lovers who are encouraged into romance by a Foreign Office bureaucrat and dullard (with deluded hopes of high office later in life) named Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.
That’s his real name, by the way.
Whatever hurts Boris Johnson only makes him stronger
The final scene of The Blob saw the eponymous jelly being flown by transport plane to the Arctic where it would never thaw. This Blob has already swallowed up acid, bullets, cars, a whole diner and a town-load of people.
Boris’ greatest trick is that if he makes a mistake, he comes out of it looking better. His fallibility is his most attractive voting point, which is why he has trumped Ken in the personality stakes time and again over the last few weeks. While Ken’s flaws can make him look like he’s getting on a bit, Boris bursts in like a corduroy-clad debating society president who’s perennially late for the lunchtime debate.
Whatever the final result today – and at the last count, Boris is 6 points clear of Ken – Mayor Boris Johnson is not going away anytime soon. Unless Ken can fly him to the Arctic where he would never thaw.