So BoJo's got his mojo working again. Boris Johnson walked into City Hall as the newly elected Mayor of London yesterday and started cracking the jokes so absent from his campaign. Tripping on his way to the podium, he accused Ken Livingstone of planting "a last-minute booby trap, a final throw!". Noting that Ken would not pass on "the seals of office" until midnight tonight, an ebullient Boris said: "Until that time, I imagine there are shredding machines working away in some parts of the building. And quite right too! Heaven knows what we're going to find in the next few days."
Teasing apart, he was again generous to Ken, offering an olive branch to "a man of considerable talents". He told his new army of staff at the Greater London Authority to "put aside personal rancour – pronounced correctly" and work together. But he gave a deadpan warning: "If there are any dogs in the manger – which I can't believe there will be – then I will have those dogs humanely euthanised!"
Gone was the growling, grumpy Boris the Bore who had stuck so grimly to his message on crime, transport, housing and the environment during the campaign. A party worker said Boris had looked "shattered and shell-shocked" during his brief appearance at the lavish celebration that Tory strategists held in Millbank tower into the early morning. The activists crammed into City Hall whooped and gave their man a standing ovation. He beamed. Boris the Blond Bombshell was back.
There was even a gaffe, just like the old days – if only a minor one about the architect of City Hall. "I can't believe I am the only person in this room who, you know, sometimes in the last nine months thought that I would never actually ascend that brilliantly constructed Richard Rogers – or is it Norman Foster? Sorry! – staircase to the upper carapace of this wonderful ... onion."
But there were no signs of exhaustion. His wife Marina had been caught in a Cherie moment in the morning, photographed in a dressing gown on the doorstep of their townhouse in Islington. Bending to pick up a package, she appeared startled by the press corps. She will have to get used to it, as her husband is the first Conservative to hold a major office since the disastrous days of 1997. A champagne bottle and flowers had been left on the step for a man who now has a much bigger direct backing from the public than David Cameron.
Some inside their party fear mandate envy will lead to tension between the two Old Etonians. So far Boris has behaved, to the point of becoming a shadow of himself during the campaign, but yesterday his confidence was visibly back. This despite his father Stanley using the dreaded B-word on the BBC: "Anyone who knows him knows he is not a buffoon."
The crowd waiting outside City Hall was surprisingly thin, but there were enough BoJo fans and tourists to ensure the crash barriers did not look embarrassing. Two men with red, white and blue BNP flags were celebrating their party's new seat on the assembly. As security guards fussed over what to do with dignitaries waiting in the sun, one shouted: "Who's in charge here?" Another voice said: "Boris!" But a member of his team confessed it was all a little overwhelming. "I still can't quite take in that this is happening."
Once inside the ninth-floor space known as London's Living Room, Johnson was in fine form. So great had interest in the election been that there could be "scarcely a person in the Outer Hebrides, scarcely a person in the United States, or further afield, who is not aware of the details of the debate in London about the exact cost of conductors on the proposed new Routemaster buses".
All through the election campaign, the IoS had been trying to talk to Boris. Would we get a chance now, in victory? No way. The line of suitors is long. But the serious Boris re-emerged towards the end of his speech. "Last night another teenager tragically lost his life to knife crime in this city," he said of a 15-year-old killed in a Peckham stairwell. "I do think it is time we led the fight against this dreadful scourge." Then he was off, to the first of very many meetings, with the chants of his supporters still ringing in his ears: "Boris! Boris!"
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