'Spectator' editor Boris Johnson to be Tory arts champion

To most voters Boris Johnson's biggest contribution to contemporary culture is his Bafta-nominated performance as the bumbling host of the satirical television show Have I Got News for You.

But yesterday the tousled, blond-haired editor of The Spectator magazine and Conservative MP was elevated to his party's front bench to champion the cause of high art.

Mr Johnson, 39, who has used his Daily Telegraph column to extol the virtues of everything from Greek culture to the 1970s cartoons Scooby Doo, Hong Kong Phooey and Wacky Races, will take to the dispatch box to confront ministers for the first time as shadow Arts minister. He said he was "thrilled" by his new job and proposed a six-point plan, including a "poetry olympiad" to reverse the decline of verse, creating new radio frequencies to allow greater airtime for the Rolling Stones in Oxfordshire and outlawing American computer spell-checkers.

He also suggested a summit to explain the work of BritArt artists such as Damien Hurst to the public, and said that the Government should settle Britain's long-running dispute with the Greek government by presenting Athens with a perfect replica of the Elgin Marbles.

The bookmaker William Hill slashed the odds of the Henley MP becoming the next Tory leader from 100/1 to 66/1.

Mr Johnson said: "Genuinely I want to move away from Labour's new utilitarian approach to culture and education generally. I was absolutely scandalised by Education Secretary Charles Clarke's attack on the study of ancient languages, which seemed to me to be barbaric. He was neglecting the fact that this civilisation is at the root of our culture."

He added: "It's a great honour. I know a certain amount about the arts, but I'm learning about it. There's lots of stuff to learn. I approach this job in a spirit of reverence and humility to those who consecrate their lives to the arts. I'm full of respect for artists of all kinds. The job of politicians is to stay out of the arts as far as they possibly can and the function of politicians is to be lampooned and derided by the arts."

Mr Johnson, who has become a darling of the Conservative Party with his self-deprecating style, was promoted from his previous job as a party vice-chairman in a mini-reshuffle caused by the resignation from the front bench of Nick Hawkins, MP for Surrey Heath, who was deselected earlier last month.

Jonathan Djanogly, MP for Huntingdon, takes over Mr Hawkins' brief as legal and constitutional affairs spokesman. Tim Loughton, MP for Worthing East and Shoreham, becomes shadow minister for the family.

Mr Johnson, who was educated at Eton and Oxford, lists his interests as painting, poetry, tennis, skiing and rugby. He said his new portfolio would not cover the media and would not conflict with his job as an editor. One Labour Party source said: "He'll be able to answer questions about what book he last read." Mr Johnson said he had just finished Carl Hiaasen's new book Skinny Dip.

Ironically, Mr Johnson's appointment overshadowed his party leader's call for a "grown-up debate" about public services in the run-up to the next general election. Michael Howard said: "There are enough real differences between us. For the first time the people of this country will have a real choice."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: £20000 - £25000 per annum + c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a number ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Sales Consultant - OTE £45,000

£15000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want to work for an exci...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food