i Editor's Letter: Boris Johnson has a strange appeal


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The Independent Online


So, here's the thing. London Mayor Boris Johnson has no right to be as popular as he is. He's a "posh boy" like the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. He's a Tory, and a journalist to boot. Throw in a colourful personal life, and he should be almost unelectable – particularly in a majority-Labour city like London. Let's be honest, Boris was helped by Labour's decision to select Ken Livingstone, whose great previous service was not reflected in a lacklustre campaign.

Boris has become the country's most popular Tory. Admittedly, he currently has the Olympics platform, and the bar is set low, but this is still a remarkable achievement. How is it possible that this politically incorrect, verbose, Greek-epigram-spouting scruff-bag can wow crowds wherever he goes, even those that should by rights be "anti"? I've seen Boris on the streets of Brixton, where antipathy towards the likes of David Cameron and George Osborne is palpable. Instead, BoJo plunges in, quipping and high-fiving; charming all around him.

Sometimes, after meeting him and soaking up the bonhomie and bon mots, I have walked away and wondered what exactly just happened; what did he mean with his "codswallop", "whiff-whaff" and "vast inanition"?

No other senior British politician could have got away with a counter-attack on Mitt Romney. I think therein lies the appeal. He is who he is. He does not pretend. He's not Cameron on a bike with clothes and briefcase in the car behind. At a time when every unguarded remark is seized upon mercilessly by an instant global media, most politicians are reduced to beige. Boris is, by comparison, psychedelic – even if he has had a short back and sides.