Janet Street-Porter: Blundering Boris, the true voice of the Tories

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The Independent Online

Boris Johnson serves a highly useful function, which is to remind me why I must never be seduced into thinking that voting Tory is anything other than a bloody stupid idea. Earlier this week, all Mr Cameron's clever efforts to rebrand his party as caring, sharing, modern and green hit the buffers when blundering Boris let rip with a series of politically incorrect verbal malfunctions at the party conference in Bournemouth.

Boris isn't just a Conservative MP with a reputation for philandering and an engagement diary empty enough to be able to accommodate regular appearances on television panel shows, he has been deemed sensible and intelligent enough by his party's leader to rejoice in the title of shadow higher education minister. Clearly the Tory party does not expect its future cabinet ministers to have any gravitas - if they won the next election, would the Blond Blunderer really be running a ministry? I have a niggling worry that perhaps Boris' dodgy sense of humour, though, really appeals to Tory die-hards, fed up with Dave and his eco values.

Speaking at a fringe meeting, Boris attacked Jamie Oliver's healthy school dinners campaign and said pupils should be free to eat what they liked. Later, he claimed he didn't mean exactly that, and described Mr Oliver as a "saint", though the BBC, who reported the story, stood by its version of events. Boris also praised the misguided women in South Yorkshire who sold fast food through the school railings, and (at another meeting) said that if local communities were given too much power it could lead to the imposition of sharia law. Finally, he called the new seat-belt laws for children "demented" and managed to offend the Scots by implying that Gordon Brown's nationality might impede his chances of becoming Prime Minister.

When editor of The Spectator, Boris ran an editorial accusing people in Liverpool of wallowing in misery, which resulted in a trip to the city and a public apology. He's said that talking on a mobile phone while driving is no more dangerous than nose picking, and had to apologise when he referred to Tory infighting as Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism.

Humour is highly subjective, but my problem is not with Mr Johnson's dubious sense of irony, but the fact that I have no idea of whether he has any coherent stance on any of the main issues facing those in charge of education in Britain. If you are a parent, I don't imagine you would want laugh-a-minute Boris to be in charge of what examinations your child sat and what selection techniques were employed to determine which schools your offspring attended.

The Tories say they are taking time to formulate their policies and build their strategy - but it might be time better spent if they placed people in their front line who stopped acting like third-division stand-up comedians and started doing the job they are paid to do, which is to participate in an intelligent democracy.

Mr Johnson is about as unfunny as the Reverend Michael Wishart, a vicar from Somerset who has been criticised for making racist remarks about the Japanese in his parish newsletter, and who moaned about the arrest of the right-wing Christian campaigner Stephen Green for handing out anti-gay propaganda, claiming they were "Bible leaflets".

George Carey once said that the Church of England should be "blurred around the edges" - but if you're gay or oriental and live in the West Country, you'd probably be better off worshipping elsewhere.

A journey fraught with difficulties

Laleh Seddigh is a brave woman who has fought prejudice to become Iran's national car rally-driving champion, beating an all-male field for her title.

Now, she has been prevented from participating in a race to defend her title in Tehran by the country's motor-racing officials, who claimed there were "security problems", even though her car had been passed by technicians.

Since Laleh became champ there have been murmurings of discontent from the sport's organising body. She retaliated by getting a Muslim cleric to issue a fatwa, saying women can participate alongside men in races as long as their dress is appropriate. Officials countered by claiming the government had banned mixed races. One had the gall to say: "Women are not champions in this sport, they are only participants."

Can we expect any of the British racing fraternity, from Jackie Stewart to David Coulthard, to sign a petition supporting Laleh?

* Mr Blair started his farewell tour with an emotional speech in Manchester the other week, and now a cosy interview on Blue Peter, trying to garner the voters of tomorrow. The trouble is, he fell at the first hurdle when it came to his cooking skills, blurting out that he could "sort of" rustle up spaghetti bolognaise, "or something like that".

It's perfectly obvious that Tony leaves all the cooking to Cherie or the children, and hasn't the faintest idea what to do with a saucepan. It might have been more savvy, given that his time in power has seen the fattest ever generation of school kids, to have pretended that preparing healthy food was no big deal and that everyone in his family could cook for themselves. But, as with new technology - it's clear he has no idea how to log on or use e-mail - Mr Blair doesn't exactly practise what he proselytises.