Matthew Parris Matthew Parris

Another Voice | 12 April 2008

Boris must bore for Britain till he wins — and then shine like Tennyson’s dragonfly

Boris must bore for Britain till he wins — and then shine like Tennyson’s dragonfly

Boris Johnson is doing as well as I hoped and better than I expected. On this page at the beginning of August last year I was presumptuous enough to offer some advice for the man who looked certain to be the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, but less likely than he does today to get the job.

Not that he will have lost any sleep over such advice. Boris isn’t the type to pore over comment pages, thank God. He doesn’t give two hoots what people like me think. Besides, what I recommended was hardly original. But it was right, and reflected advice from many other quarters, including inside his team. Most importantly, it probably reflected advice from inside his own head.

It was this. ‘If anything’ (I said) ‘is to sink the Johnson candidature, it will be an impression of careless jollity — and he’s better than that. Frankly, we at The Spectator would all be doing Boris a favour if we pretended not to support him at all.’ I added that no Etonian should be allowed within five miles of his campaign. ‘Boris,’ I said, ‘is not a snob, Londoners are not inverted snobs, and Johnson could even turn his toffishness to his advantage if the inevitable class-based Labour and Liberal Democrat attacks on him appeared unwarranted; but he must make sure they do appear unwarranted. The Spectator cannot help him here, except by steering clear.’

Well, so far so good; this magazine and Boris have indeed more or less left each other alone, and the appearance of an amateurish toff leading a rather elitist campaign has been studiously avoided. So has playing to the gallery.

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