Grace Dent: It’s amazing what you can get away with if you’re Boris

Scatter-gunning faux-pas, mild outrage and well-meaning tactlessness



Avid readers of this column will know I am a terrific fan of the unfettered public outbursts and general bewildering persona of Boris Johnson. The fact that Boris can pinball through life at such a high-ranking level – scatter-gunning faux-pas, offence, mild outrage and well-meaning tactlessness while never quite killing his career – is fascinating. It is a great inspiration to see what can be glossed over if one is charming enough, with adorably unkempt hair.

“Later this year,” Boris said at a property conference in France last month, “we will go in for planning permission for an absolutely beautiful, stunningly beautiful project. A new ‘Garden Bridge’! I don’t quite know what the point of this thing is.”

The bridge in London – linking the South Bank and Victoria Embankment – will potentially cost taxpayers £30m. Does Boris know what it’s for? Does he hell.

On Monday Boris wrote a column for a rival newspaper in which he described living in fear of Boko Haram in Nigeria as very similar to living in a Britain where poor old Jeremy Clarkson can’t even say the N-word these days without being caught up in some swarm of protest.

As I say, the man is an inspiration. I tend to worry that my columns have at least some semblance of common sense, but with Boris it’s just: scatter-gun a blank page with a spellbinding stream-of-Borisness; check word count; press send and go.

Sometimes pathetic comments deserve to remain private

I am no fan of sexists, or knuckle-dragging chat about “gash” – sorry, women – or situations where two grown men in positions of power laugh about which female employees should or shouldn’t be “on their shaft” or can’t hold down a job because of their inherent irrationality. But in the case of the Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, his oafish comments were made in a private email to an old friend.

While it’s tempting – from a feminist aspect – to want him strung up with football boot laces from the nearest goalpost, I feel it’s fair to say that for most people, if the contents of their private emails, WhatsApp chats and Skypes were taken out of context and presented to their enemies to draw attention to, many would be unemployable.

If we move into an age where any utterance we make historically, candidly and privately can be used to finish us off, then the offices, factories and boardrooms of Britain will be highly desolate places.

Read more from Grace Dent: Wouldn't you do the same as Barlow?

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