It was the perfect invitation for a politician who has loved playing the fool since getting his biggest laughs while stumbling over lines in school productions. How could Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, resist the offer of a quick pint in the Queen Vic and a cameo in EastEnders, bantering with Barbara Windsor?
The day that London's two best-known blondes met in Walford will be screened on Thursday night. The mayor insists it's all about supporting "a London icon". But there's a happy coincidence of positive, prime-time exposure for himself.
While some believe, uncharitably, that there is no limit to Johnson's shamelessness, it appears he is less keen for his TV audience to scrutinise the schedules the following week. The reason? When Boris Met Dave, a docu-drama about his uneven relationship with the Conservative leader, David Cameron, to be aired on More4.
The programme dwells on the pair's schooling at Eton and later antics in the Bullingdon Club, the infamous waistcoat-and-tails fraternity at Oxford University. It features old tales that both men would probably prefer to forget. In one controversial piece of dramatic licence, the programme shows a young Cameron with paraphernalia for smoking cannabis in his school desk.
Toby Young, who scripted When Boris Met Dave, has revealed that there are limits to the mayor's love of the limelight. Young put a dramatised Johnson in his play Who's The Daddy?, a farce about goings-on at The Spectator, which Johnson used to edit. Just before the opening night, Johnson sent Young – whom he has known since university – a postcard saying: "I always knew my life would turn into a farce. I'm just grateful it has been entrusted to two such distinguished men of letters."
But when there was a possibility of Who's the Daddy? transferring to bigger audiences in the West End, Young said, "Boris called me on an almost nightly basis. He was very anxious that it should not be transferred."
Johnson has made no effort to restrict When Boris Met Dave, said Young: "When he first heard about it, Boris said, 'He's just winding me up, isn't he?'
"The programme has been portrayed by some as a vicious and irreverent take on our relationship but, actually, it is fairly lighthearted and affectionate. It doesn't matter how many faintly embarrassing stories appear, they don't really damage Boris. Dave's image is a bit more susceptible."