The Sketch: You cannot be serious, Boris

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The Independent Online

Our president introduced the guest speaker through his many achievements, "The author of 72 virgins" was the most popular. It was Boris. "Big box-office Boris!" Make up your own jokes from that fertile material.

It's impossible not to like Boris. I don't even try. It's a professional delinquency, but it just takes too much effort to dislike his big, blond, pink-eyed ebullience. He's a big, lovely rabbit. And all those cruel things I said about his unfitness for political life; they've proven to be so wide of the mark that my reputation for infallibility has been damaged, frankly.

I forgive him. He's running neck and neck with the Mayor of London for one of the most prominent political jobs in the country. It is... astonishing.

He was addressing the Press Gallery lunch in the House of Commons. He had been told not to do a string of jokes, I suppose. He told us he wanted to even out the social inequality in London. And that we needed an independent arbiter to vet public contractors.

When he started on youths and graffiti-cleaning his audience was starting to drift. Why was he telling us this? Didn't he know we were journalists? He thought police authorities should have monthly meetings. Some of us were getting quite indignant by then.

"I see a new dawning of an age of generosity" provoked a snort, or a snigger, or a momentary reason to wake up. But he had made that terrible mistake of misjudging his audience. A stump speech is a dangerous idea these days; we all want something just for us.

The great Boris talent is his interesting dialect. But is it capable of carrying ideas beyond his class and peers? When he uses the phrase "doing excellent work for the lives of those kids" he sounds unlike himself. It's as though he has said those fatal words, "But seriously, though". I blame his press officers.

Into the Lords for some Rock in committee. Is there anyone who knows all about this company and its takeover? Private companies spend months and millions doing due diligence. Parliament is doing it in three days for 125 quid.

Questions asked but unanswered: Is the Government worried that Northern Rock is competing with government gilts? They're offering the same security and a 2 per cent premium.

If it's such a three-day legislative emergency, why do they need the powers in place for a year?

If Granite is such a separate company, why do its assets appear on Rock's balance sheet?

Oh, and to restate the private question: Why aren't the directors in jail?