Donald Macintyre's Sketch: A straight answer from Boris? You might as well ask Jeeves
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt.
Tuesday 17 December 2013
Having improbably suggested that he might turn to writing romantic fiction after stepping down as Mayor of London, rather than something more humdrum like becoming leader of the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson was asked to cite a model. Cleverly, he mentioned Rosie M Banks, who was herself a fictional character (of PG Wodehouse’s). This is a prototypical Boris answer, underlining the riskiness of taking him at face value. Did “No, I will not be an MP in 2015,” really mean no? Or could he yet still be dragged unwillingly to a safe seat?
Either way, and perhaps because the Davies report leaves his Thames Estuary airport an expensive outsider, the parliamentary press lunch was almost low key by the Mayor’s exotic standards. True, there was no doubting his cause du jour. Davies had exaggerated the costs of Boris Island. The Government had to stop “pussyfooting and fannying around”. The “environmental catastrophe” of expanding Heathrow would require a “crazy pontoon” over the M25. So who persuaded Davies to keep Boris Island (just) open as an option? “Me,” the Mayor explained modestly.
Had he been in the House of Commons earlier he would have been struck by West Midlands MPs, Labour and Tory, arguing for a bigger Birmingham airport in what the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin acknowledged was a “united front”. An airport expansion which everyone in its region seems to want instead of a series of London options which large numbers of people don’t! Too simple – or too popular?
If anything, Boris was most animated on his verbal feud with fellow talk-show star Nick Clegg, despite first explaining that he was “too busy” to consider it. “I’m sure he has many, many important ceremonial duties,” he declared – the main one being to stop the Government carrying out “sensible policies”. “He is a sort of lapdog of David Cameron who’s been converted by taxidermy into a kind of protective shield, like the Emperor Valerian who was skinned and hung on the wall... The sooner we are shot of the great yellow albatross, in my view, the better.”
Even as Boris spoke unflatteringly of his Westminster-educated opponent – not to mention his fellow old Etonian rival – Labour peer Lord Lea was asking over in the Lords “how far” those “educated at public school disproportionately occupy senior positions in both public and private sectors”. The Tory hereditary peer Lord Elton was having none of this, saying “the private education system is better than the public one” and the answer was more funding to bring “excluded classes” into it.
That way, we would all have known that Valerian was the only Roman Emperor to be taken a prisoner of war without having to Google it.
- 1 UK's biggest male rape charity Survivors UK has state funding slashed to zero despite 120% rise in men reporting sexual violence and seeking help
- 2 'Don't blame all men for rape' campaign backfires spectacularly
- 3 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 4 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: it's not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity
- 5 Paracetamol Challenge: Mother of girl killed by overdose pleads with teenagers to ignore 'craze'
UK's biggest male rape charity Survivors UK has state funding slashed to zero despite 120% rise in men reporting sexual violence and seeking help
Priest warns pupils the 'Charlie Charlie Challenge' is 'demonic activity'
Iran launches anti-Isis cartoon competition 'to expose true nature of Islamic State'
University league tables: Best universities for teaching standards rank Oxford, Cambridge and Coventry among top 20
Tinder and Grindr dating apps blamed for surge in cases of HIV, syphilis and other STDs
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...
£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...
£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...
£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Software Engineer i...