Boris looks human among Westminster waxworks

The Mayor took his grilling by Eddie Mair with the kind of grace few MPs possess

Share
Related Topics

I make no apologies for writing about Boris Johnson again today. After all, he is easily the most interesting politician around at the moment. As I watched Michael Cockerell's excellent film about the Mayor of London, at various stages finding myself captivated, amused and horrified, I wondered how many politicians can put on a show quite like Boris.

Can you imagine such a diverting hour in the company of Ed Milliband, for example? Or George Osborne? Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye and, I suspect, a closet admirer of Boris, put it most succinctly when he called him "the only feel-good politician".

At a time when all we hear about is austerity, immigration, and regulation of the press, it is refreshing to hear a politician talk relatively candidly, and in language to which we can relate, and with decent jokes, about both serious and not-so-serious issues. I have always been resistant to Boris's charms, regarding his dishevelled public persona as a carefully crafted confection, but I find myself won over by him. Not by the way he dealt with Cockerell's careful line of questioning, not by the glimpses into his privileged and colourful background, not by the charm, and not by his (qualified) independence of thought. No, something eventuated (I'm sorry, but it's catching) from the recent blizzard of publicity that, in my book, marks Boris out as a truly admirable character.

By now, I'm sure you will have seen how he was hoovered by the BBC's Eddie Mair on the Andrew Marr programme at the weekend. In the midst of a forensic investigation into some of the highly questionable incidents from Boris's past, Mair put it to him that he was "a nasty piece of work". Dissembling and obfuscating, Boris gave a performance that was unconvincing at best, downright shifty at worst. It was seen by some commentators as a fatal wound to any aspirations he might have of being Prime Minister. We always knew Boris would be holed by the character question, they said. His father, Stanley, went on the radio to declaim the interview as "disgusting". But how did the man himself react?

He said that Mair "did a splendid job". He went to admit that "it wasn't my most blistering performance, [but]...he was perfectly within his rights to have a bash at me - in fact it would be shocking if he hadn't." Remarkable. Since when did a politician take one on the chin from a journalist in such uncomplaining fashion? That grown-up sensibility is just one of the things that endears Boris to the public.

But it was something else Boris said about the Mair interview that convinced me. "There is no doubt that is what the BBC is for - holding us to account." That's right - a senior Conservative defending the BBC! And there's more. "If a BBC presenter can't attack a nasty Tory politician what's the world coming to?" This is the quintessence of Boris: full of rhetoric and mock self-effacement. But you can't argue with the message. My esteemed colleague Steve Richards believes that Boris will never be PM. And who am I to disagree? Unlike Steve, however, I wouldn't bet against it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: A huge step forward in medical science, but we're not all the way there yet

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron has painted a scary picture of what life would be like under a Labour government  

You want constitutional change? Fixed-term parliaments have already done the job

Steve Richards
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album