The Sketch: Whether or not Boris wins, the gentlemen are back in the game

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It's amateurs vs professionals. That's the current theme, or narrative of politics just now.

Gordon Brown, Ken Livingstone, Jack Straw, Harriet Harman are the battered old pros, sucking wearily on one last fag before getting the gloves on to start the march out to the ring.

In the ring already, keen as mustard, shadow boxing, urging each other on with youthful cries are David Cameron, Boris Johnson, George Osborne, Michael Gove, Nick Herbert.

The thing that sets them apart from each other? The amateurs are still recognisable human beings. They haven't yet been fully absorbed (there hasn't been time). So we have David Cameron's "Oh, for heaven's sake, John, you are unbearable," vs Gordon Brown's "My first thought this morning when I woke up? How to steer the course of stability through the tough long-term decisions for everyone in this country not just the few."

But the thing they have in common? None has ever done anything outside the political class work of media and civic administration. The difference between them is time.

In Defra questions, it was all professionals, exhibiting many of the qualities that have so disillusioned the electorate. It was so boring that, after the first three minutes, I thought I'd had a stroke. Then Joan Ruddock said, "No government in the world is more active in sending out messages than this one." My left arm tingled. I scrabbled at my chest.

But I'm still here.

Hilary Benn, a born professional, is becoming a caricature of his kind. The head bobs and wobbles on two axes, the hands jive... he's in the last stages of whatever Simon Schama's suffering from. He did confess that "we can't legislate what the global temperature increase will be," but only people fully demented by office would find themselves in a position of having to say so.

Can the amateur spirit bring new energy to climate change? Goodness, something has to.

Some years ago, just before the last general election I was watching Boris performing in the Oxford Union, doing well in his natural habitat.

Later, in the street, among the criminal obesity and facial metal, I couldn't see how Boris could ever appeal to such a world. And I wrote that the Conservative Party didn't have a chance of being elected while Boris was a member of it.

I eat those words, and very nice they taste. Whoever wins in London, the ultimate amateur has made a fantastic breakthrough. It must shatter the world view of Ed Balls and other class warriors that the concept "Tory toff" no longer has the power to move mountains.

It's Gentlemen vs Players, and for good or ill, for the first time in a generation, the Gentlemen are in the game.