i Editor's Letter: We should take Boris seriously


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The Independent Online


Let's talk about Boris. I know I will have lost some of you already, because some of you harangue us for even having the temerity to print a photograph of the blond mophead, let alone anything he says. You will just have to fulminate, because the joker of British politics demands serious scrutiny. And if you don't like my take, then read Matthew Norman's (p13).

Boris stole the show at the Tory conference while appearing to deliberately not; he set himself up as a future leadership candidate while pledging allegiance to the PM; and "went rogue" on policy while appearing to toe the line. All this was dressed up with such a torrent of jokes it was difficult to assess what he was actually saying in real time. In truth, it is often difficult to do so even after the event.

I'm afraid, as I have said before, sadly, this matters a great deal less than our image of ourselves would let us believe. Too many of us are won over by personality, wit, charm and humour. Boris also has qualities that are rare in politicians, especially British ones: he makes us feel good about ourselves, optimistic about the future.

He feels like a conviction politician because he is prepared to go rogue on enough subjects (a third runway, "plebgate") to get noticed. He goes off-piste on speeches and delights in riffing – hence the best bit of his performance yesterday being the PM as broom, Gove as J-cloth etc. And the dazzlingly confident erudition is attractive. The point being virtually no one else in any party is willing or able to do the same. So, we need to take Boris seriously because voters do. Will he be leader? Who knows? There is little doubt he is a great cheerleader, but can he make quarterback?