Sketch: He praised PMs past and present, but it was all about Boris's future

 

Share
Related Topics

It's a tribute to Boris Johnson's rapturously received speech yesterday that, almost unnoticed, he secured a warm round of applause for Sir John Major. Certainly the last Tory PM retains a place in the public's affections, but now the premiership of the whipping boy of the Tory Eurosceptic bastards has been fully rehabilitated even in the eyes of a still Thatcherite-leaning party conference.

Whether that matters to Major is a matter of conjecture. These days, he may sympathise with his Tory predecessor Arthur Balfour, who said he would rather consult his valet than the Conservative conference.

What is clear is that only Boris could have pulled it off, as he did yesterday when, at the climax of his encomium to those who helped put on the Olympics (including Ken Livingstone – "I don't think Ken is going to come back from that one. He just got a clap from the Tory party conference"), he declared: "There is one Conservative we need to thank….Oh, yes. It is thanks to John Major, who put in the lottery, that we have gone from one gold medal in 1996 to the sporting superpower we are today."

But what did this mean? By referring to Major as "one prime minister who loves sport", could Boris have been casting doubt on the enthusiasm of David Cameron? Or was it, more likely, that the sub-text was a veiled reminder that Major was the last Conservative leader to win an outright majority?

It scarcely mattered. Because the tousle-haired party idol trod the high wire between disloyalty and self-promotional cheek with dizzying aplomb from the moment he shambled on to the stage. Like an MC at the old Victorian Gaiety Theatre, MP Gavin Barwell introduced him by commanding the audience to "please welcome the one and only Mayor of London, Mr Boris Johnson." They stood and applauded before he even started speaking, including, gamely enough, Cameron himself, who had been somewhat less tumultuously received as he slipped into his seat in row eight.

But this was, despite the stream of jokes, more than mere music hall. Boris shares with Bill Clinton – a greatly different politician in most, though not quite all, respects – an ability to fold statistics (54,000 houses built, 10,000 new trees, even the Jubilee line running "3mph faster than when I was elected" ) into a rhetorical whole, the implicit argument of which was that if his party can emulate his success in London, nothing can stop them in 2015.

For all his professions of loyalty, it's the speech's little asides that show that his ability to destabilise, however checked yesterday, remains intact: the repeated addressing of Cameron as "Dave" (not even the most demotic of Labourites called Blair "Tone"); the crack about his forgetting what Magna Carta meant; even the wryly muttered praise for Cameron's decision to come to hear his speech. Reverence for the great office of Prime Minister is not a Boris priority. Unless, and until, he gets to No 10 himself of course.

In his own words: the Mayor of London on…

The London 2012 Games "There we were, little old us, the country that made such a Horlicks of the Millennium Dome celebrations in 2000, putting on a flawless performance of the most logistically difficult thing you can ask a country to do in peacetime."

David Cameron "I was pleased to see you called me a blond-haired mop in the papers. If I am a mop, David Cameron, you are a broom – a broom that is clearing up the mess left by the Labour government. And a fantastic job you are doing."

React Now

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

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices