Matthew Parris says Mayor Johnson must now focus obsessively on fixing London’s transport systemIn more ways than one, the suffix ‘ism’ is not easily appended to the word ‘Boris’. Indeed ‘Borisism’ sounds so ungainly that some may pray that no such phenomenon ever needs to be described.If so, the prayer has been answered. After his first year in power the most powerful Tory in contemporary British politics — the individual Conservative with the biggest personal mandate in history — has to his credit a solid list of plans actioned and things done.
Over the last week I have been pondering the lives of three totally different women. The first was our dim, weasel-worded Home Secretary, adept at letting others fall on their sword but unwilling to follow suit. Second, the late Jade Goody with her sad, manufactured martyrdom, and last a hard-working NHS doctor responsible for the operation of a large A&E department. In recent television programmes all three revealed different aspects of our fractured society and, more and more, I found myself becoming ‘as mad as hell’, like the character in Chayefsky’s film Network.
Boris Johnson’s first year as Mayor of London has proved something of a shock, especially to his own side. His enemies, including the Tory parliamentary leadership as well as the sort of people who toil on the Guardian’s comment pages, find they have underestimated him. It suited them to write him off as a clown who would soon make a complete mess of things, if by some fluke he were to defeat Ken Livingstone in the election held on 1 May last year.
‘The thing about Boris is that he really, really wants to be President,’ said an Old Etonian contemporary of his. This was back in 1984 when we were all at Oxford together.
‘Yes, I know,’ I replied. ‘He’s already announced his candidacy.’
‘I don’t mean President of the Union,’ he said. ‘I mean President of the United States.’
Could that possibly be true? Boris was born in New York in 1964 so he isn’t disqualified on those grounds.
Ross Clark says that we mustn’t underestimate Boris’s greatest achievement: to have frozen the GLA precept without affecting services is a triumphIt is hard to remember the horrors of the London inherited by new Mayor Boris Johnson a year ago. It was a city gridlocked with traffic, with unaffordable housing, and where you couldn’t get a table in a decent restaurant without booking six months in advance.
We asked a distinguished panel to assess the Mayor’s progress — and what he should do next
Boris and his team have done a brilliant job in the last year. Under his leadership City Hall has become less extravagant, and more focused on the right priorities: making London a safer, greener and more affordable place to live. Boris has certainly confounded his detractors.
In terms of the future (other than synchronising the traffic lights so those of us who cycle across Hyde Park Corner are less likely to be squashed by a bendy bus) he should carry on doing the excellent work that he is doing.
‘I believe in the mysterious beauty of Margaret Thatcher, in the arch of her nostrils and the sheen on her lower lip; in the melancholy of wounded Argentine conscripts; in the haunted smiles of filling station personnel, in my dream of Margaret Thatcher caressed by that young Argentine soldier in a forgotten motel, watched by a tubercular filling station attendant.’The drug-addled, leather-faced rock star from Detroit, Iggy Pop — né James Newell Osterberg — whose contribution to the canon of modern popular verse includes ‘Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell’ and ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, once wrote and performed a song called ‘I’m a Conservative’.
On a blustery southern winter’s night last year, Jacob Zuma hosted a small dinner in the Rand Club for a dozen sceptical guests. Founded by Cecil Rhodes, the dark-panelled club in the centre of Johannesburg was in the old days the preserve of the white English-speaking business establishment. In the early years of majority rule, senior officials of the African National Congress were wary of admitting to membership, fearing headlines insinuating they had become the new ‘Randlords’, the old nickname for Rhodes and his peers.
‘Nice car,’ said my host approvingly, as he saw me off after Sunday lunch last weekend, as the blossom hung heavy on the bough and all the birds of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire chorused in the sunshine.I opened the door with pride. At this point I should boast that the vehicle in question is not some hybrid, some gleaming marque of prestige. It’s my husband’s R-reg VW Passat. I swept the litter off the seat on to the floor with a fine, careless gesture before taking the wheel and accepting the compliment with a smile.
If political reality means we can’t tax the overweight, then at least let’s have tax breaks for those who bother to take exercise, writes unashamed metrosexual Dan JonesHands up if you employ a personal trainer. Actually, that’s a trick question. If you can raise your arm without wincing in pain then either you don’t have a personal trainer, or yours is letting you slack off. (Get a new one.
I met Boris Johnson in his office in City Hall overlooking the Thames and Tower Bridge. Our former editor seemed a more thoughtful and sensible character than the man who used to practise cycling with no hands down Doughty Street at lunchtime, but there were signs of the old Boris tucked around his mayoral office: ping pong bats (the Mayor likes to unwind by trying and failing to beat his personal assistant, Ann Sindall); a book of love poems by the late Woodrow Wyatt; a bust of Pericles in the corner, looking out over this 21st-century Athens.