Boris Johnson was in outrageous form, aggrandising his achievements as London’s Mayor to a large audience from the property and construction industries at the London Infrastructure Summit on Thursday.
He had figures to show that life expectancy in the capital has risen on his watch and implied that because he is mayor, any Londoner can live to be 100. He joked that Birmingham is on the way to becoming the 34th London borough, and that London was in a position to grab part of northern France.
The Mayor has reasons to be chirpy, with so many Conservative Party members gagging to have him as their MP. After the veteran Tory MP for Louth and Horncastle, Sir Peter Tapsell, announced that he is pulling out at the next election, Tony Bridges, a Lincolnshire county councillor, told the Grimsby Telegraph that Johnson “could be a very effective MP, as he has been a very effective mayor”.
Almost simultaneously, further south, a district councillor, Mark Howell, was talking to the Cambridge News about rumours that another safe seat might become vacant if the Leader of the Commons, Andrew Lansley, is appointed EU Commissioner when the incumbent, Baroness Ashton, reaches the end of her term of office. If Boris were to put himself forward, “I think we would love it, it would be wonderful,” said Howell. “I think the people of south Cambridgeshire would love it too – I think they would welcome him with open arms.”
Lansley was asked in the Commons on Thursday about whether he is bound for Brussels, and replied demurely: “I cannot comment on such issues, because they are matters for the Prime Minister.”
But the smart money says that the next EU Commissioner will not be Lansley: it is more likely to be the former Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind. He holds the plum London seat of Kensington, comfortably close to the London Mayor’s headquarters, with a solid Tory majority and a track record for sending colourful characters to Parliament. Rifkind’s predecessor was the diarist and serial adulterer, Alan Clark. A more congenial berth for Boris Johnson would be hard to imagine.
One of the many who judged Nigel Farage the winner of his match against Nick Clegg was Sally Bercow, who tweeted: “Don’t agree with Nigel Farage but he is a brilliant, articulate communicator. Have to admit he whipped Clegg’s arse.”
Repetitive strain interview
The Sky News interviewer Eammon Holmes has issued a public warning to guests who appear on his morning show Sunrise that whatever they have to say, they should say only once. This follows a bad-tempered exchange with the Schools minister, David Laws, about the teachers’ strike, during which Holmes asked: “Did you write lines at school? Because you keep repeating the same things! ... You don’t have to keep repeating, repeating!”
He has now announced on Twitter: “Notice served on politicians appearing with me on Sunrise. Give your message once – if you repeat, I will laugh at you.”
Overshadowed by the passing of more famous figures, the death of the former Tory MP, Lord Kimball, 85, has prompted little comment. He was not a major public figure, but he did perform one extraordinary act in his political life. During the occupation of the Falkland Islands by the Argentinians in 1982, when most Tories and the Labour Shadow Cabinet were clamouring for war and at least one caller to a radio phone-in advocated dropping a nuclear bomb on Buenos Aires, Marcus Kimball, then MP for Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, suggested to government whips: “Let the Argentinians have the Falklands with as little fuss as possible.”
He was not bold enough to repeat that idea in public. It was not until 30 years later that it became known he said it at all, when the comment turned up in papers released by the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.