Boris Johnson: schemer or charmer? — Manthorpe

British Conservatives and the public must soon decide whether Boris Johnson is as he portrays himself — a charming Bertie Wooster, whose eccentricity masks a proven ability at administration as Mayor of London – or someone a good deal more scheming and sinister. An excerpt of  International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe’s new column, The Boris Show heads for prime time (subscription needed):

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London who unashamedly lusts to be Tory Prime Minister of Britain, clearly relishes his role as a source of public entertainment.

In his nearly two decades in the public eye, Johnson has made buffoonery a high political art form. And public delight at his verbal indiscretions, temperamental inability to parrot contemporary political correctness, willingness to make a fool of himself, and genial, basset-hound features have aligned into considerable political backing.

That backing has seen him elected Member of Parliament for Henley in 2001 and the directly elected Mayor of Metropolitan London in 2008. In 2012 he was re-elected amid the euphoria of the London Olympics. Now Johnson has announced he plans to run again for the House of Commons in next year’s election and no one doubts he has his eyes set on supplanting Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. Even Johnson has stopped denying his ambition. He used to say he had “as much chance of becoming Prime Minister has being decapitated by a Frisbee, blinded by champagne cork, locked in a disused ‘fridge’, or reincarnated as an olive.” However, he denies any plans to conspire against Cameron, who has many dissenters among the Tory backbenchers, and insists he will only be on hand “if the ball comes loose in the scrum.”

It is and often has been the habit of aspiring politicians to write books to try to give some gravitas to their ambitions. Look at Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices, for example. Johnson’s choice of subjects in his recently-published book on Britain’s wartime leader Winston Churchill is equally revealing. Leaving the reader to draw the parallels, Johnson makes the case that eccentricity has never been a barrier to holding high public office in Britain, and Churchill is a prime example. He also argues that Churchill created a character that the times demanded and played that part to perfection.  … log in to read The Boris Show heads for prime time (subscription*)

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