You ask the questions: Boris Johnson

(Such as: Boris Johnson, is it true that blonds have more fun?)
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The Independent Culture
BORIS JOHNSON, 35, was brought up in America and Brussels. He attended Eton College and went on to study Classics at Balliol College Oxford, where he was the President of the Union. Johnson began his career in journalism as an EC correspondent for The Daily Telegraph. He progressed to assistant editor and chief political columnist of the paper. He was the 1997 Commentator of the Year. He was appointed editor of The Spectator magazine in August 1999 and has even been mentioned as a possible Conservative candidate in the Kensington and Chelsea by-election. He lives with his wife Marina and their four children in Islington, north London. His hobbies include painting.

I find your writing very funny. What makes you laugh?

Annie Boulton, London SW18

That bit in The Pink Panther when Peter Sellers does the parallel bars and then falls down the stairs and breaks the piano with the mace. Brill. I had a sort of cardiac arrest, I was laughing so much. I retched and heaved and then I blacked out.

What would you take to read on a two-hour train journey?

D Alforth, by e-mail

The Spectator. And two hours, frankly, is not enough.

What would you do to the BBC if you got your hands on it?

P Harrison, Swindon

Flog it. No. Wait a mo. I'd cease this senseless pursuit of ratings and take it upmarket with an epoch-making series about the ancient world.

Who would you most like to have dinner with?

J Atkins, Salisbury

My wife. I realise this is the compulsory answer but I want you to know I give it entirely voluntarily.

Tell us a joke.

J Hampton, Durham

Actually I'm not much good on jokes. This is a joke my four-year-old son told me. "Why was six afraid of seven? Because seven eight nine." Good one, eh? I knew you'd like it.

What is your favourite film?

T Clarke, Dorchester

The Godfather by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo. This is, in the words of the critic Pseudovic, "a profound and brilliant meditation on the conflicting roles of family and society. It represents a formidable challenge to those conservatives who exalt the Family - a challenge we dare not shirk".

Do blonds really have more fun?

Fay Goodman, by e-mail

The tragic reality, in my opinion, is that they do.

Do you see The Spectator as a training ground for future Telegraph editors?

B Moore, Cirencester

The Spectator is a training ground for Prime Ministers, Chancellors of the Exchequer, innumerable peers of the realm and a wide assortment of drunks and deadbeats.

If you didn't work in the media or politics, what would you do?

Steve Dowding, Oxford

I was once a management consultant for a couple of weeks. In fact, one week. It was not a success, though I kept the "golden hello". It would be nice to farm on Exmoor, though these days you'd probably end up shooting your own sheep.

How are you going to persuade Tories such as Ken Clarke and Alan Duncan to feed you their stories, rather than go to the New Statesman?

J Pearson, Birmingham

Do they "go" to the New Statesmen? How utterly feeble of them. By the way, what are these "stories" of which you speak?

What would you say in response to a rival's accusation that your appointment was ``like entrusting a Ming vase to the hands of an ape''?

L Bellanger, Chester

Gah.

You were recently described as "Fleet Street's own Bertie Wooster". Fair comment?

W Richards, Lindfield, West Sussex

Ludicrous. My ancestors did not come over with the Normans, being an assortment of Turks, Russians, French, Germans and others; I have no private income; I work; I have no gentleman's personal gentleman.

Why did you stand as Tory candidate for Clwyd South at the last election when you clearly didn't have a chance?

E Holmes, Ipswich

I did it because it was time to stand up for what I believe; because I am a Conservative; and because - I know Charles Moore will forgive me for saying so - it was a good way of seeing an election without the drudgery of covering it. Readers of The Independent will be pleased to know the swing was an exceedingly modest 7.8 per cent.

What's the point of a political weekly when the newspapers do such a good job, and cost half the price?

G Hincock, Bradford-on-Avon

The Spectator seems to have lost its relevance since the Labour Party has been in office.

What is the point of the magazine?

J Johnson, London W2

I hope you will forgive me if I take these two questions together. The Spectator is, all round, the greatest magazine in the civilised world. It can boast the most distinguished stable of columnists and, as everyone from Graham Green to Peter Stothard has observed, the finest writing in the language. Every week, for a paltry outlay, the reader is treated to what, at its best, is a pyrotechnical display of ground- breaking, story- breaking cutting-edge journalism. You ask me about relevance. We are more relevant than ever. We represent an 88-page palliative, a relief, a refreshment from the ghastly treacly consensus of New Britain. We are a refuge, an oasis, ah - I hope my point is made.

Oasis. Not as good as they used to be? Please discuss.

P Helps, Nottingham

Yup. Absolutely. You can't catch me out here. Oasis were OK with that "Wonderwall" song, and the other one about how I fancy her mother and I think she fancies me, but since then zip. Am I right?

What are columnists good for?

K Cragshaw, London SE11

Oh come off it. You know what columnists are good for. They are the guys and gals who don't have to be involved in the hand-to-hand stuff, but who can do just as much damage and give just as much pleasure. They don't have a clue what is over the garden wall: they just shut their eyes, chuck rocks, and listen for the sweet tinkle of success.

Are you a political writer or a writer of politics?

John Watkins, Tredegar, Gwent

Ha! Good one. Cunning. Oh yes. I think it might be better to be a political writer, don't you think?

Do you think William Hague will still be the leader of the Tories at the next general election?

M Pleadger, Ripon

Of course he will. I now offer to give any reader of The Independent odds of 2-1 that he will lead the Tory party into that election. Come on.

What exercise do you take?

K Raw, Southampton

Very funny. Actually tennis and squash and things. And I recently played rugby for The Telegraph against the BBC and scored the opening try - though it was disallowed on some technicality.

Keats or Dylan? You choose.

M Bridge, Chelmsford, Essex

Keats, though if you'd said Keats or The Rolling Stones, I'd go for the Stones. I remember being driven mad during one childhood holiday in Greece when the cafe played nothing but "Hey Mr Tambourine Man". We confused "Tambourine" with "tangerine", and so the song has always reminded me of the late Stephen Milligan.

What do you really think of Taki?

H Goodhall, Saffron Walden, Essex

I really think that, at his best, he is a hugely entertaining columnist of exemplary professionalism.

Ian Hislop urged you to prove yourself by sacking the "racist" columnist, Taki. Why haven't you done so?

Jean Anderson, by e-mail

See above.

How would you describe your relationship with Ian Hislop?

Francis Scott, London SW7

Little short of superb.

How do you rate yourself as an editor? And who is the editor of your generation?

D Whitehead, Horwich, Lancashire

I think it would be a bit absurd to rate myself, since I've only been an editor for a few weeks. As for others, I have my own small and private pantheon.

Do you ever regret meeting Darius Guppy?

K Bower, London SW15

No I don't regret meeting Darius, in many respects a great guy. I do regret his criminal ventures, but then so, I am sure, does he.

Where do you get those suits?

L Young, Rugby

My suits are from Hong Kong or from Bombay, or else they come from a complete rip-off artist who once came to my old office at The Daily Telegraph and claimed he made suits for Piers Morgan, the editor of the Daily Mirror.

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