Friends of Boris

Which brings us to Boris Johnson. It is perhaps a kindness to some of you, who remember his genial outings on this page over many years, to advise that those of a sensitive disposition, who harbour affection for the Conservative candidate, might do better to switch off now.

Mr Johnson is not a politician. He is an act. The same stricture could fairly be applied to Mr Livingstone. Mr Johnson\’s act is, though, more finely wrought.

He is serving a very useful purpose for his party. It was decided, presumably by one of the advertising men who now control the Conservatives, that the only way to beat an act was with another, even better one. They certainly went to the right man.

I want to dismiss a prejudice about Mr Johnson, and I do so as one who has known him for the past 20 years. It is that he is a buffoon. He isn\’t.

The act is calculated and it has required serious application and timing of the sort of which only a clever man is capable. For some of us the joke has worn not thin, but out. Yet many less cynical than I am find it appealing. It conceals two things: a blinding lack of attention to detail, and (though this might seem to sit ill with the first point) a ruthless ambition.

Mr Johnson is the most ambitious person I have ever met. That ought to be a commendation for high office, since ambitious people normally understand they will go further only by doing their present job well. Mr Johnson\’s scattergun approach to life will not allow this.

In his superb biography of him, my colleague Andrew Gimson outlines the practice that has allowed Mr Johnson to get so far in life: he has used his charm, to which only a few more seasoned hands are immune, to enlist at every stage what Mr Gimson calls "stooges" to help him advance.

There were stooges when Mr Johnson was en route to be president of the Oxford Union. He has had stooges all through journalism, who did significant parts of his various jobs for him, usually with little thanks or reward. And now there are stooges in politics.

That\’s from Simon Heffer. That is, prety much Boris\’ boss at The Telegraph. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

10 thoughts on “Friends of Boris”

  1. Let me get this straight…

    He’s saying that Boris is someone who, through charm, is capable of getting people to do lots of work for him for little obvious reward.

    How is this a bad thing for the ratepayers of London?

  2. I like Boris because he looks uncomfortable acting the politician. Plus I can’t wait for his acceptance speech it will be a hoot.

  3. But don’t many people advance in life by exploiting “stooges”? Have you ever read, for example, of any school teacher who is a pillar of the local council without thinking “what about all his school colleagues who do his work for him?”. I’ll bet the majority of Labour MPs are that type.

  4. The ruthless ambition and exploitation doesn’t matter in the slightest; the man’s a politician.

    But the “blinding lack of attention to detail” is a serious problem for someone who’s doing a delicate juggling act over a multi-billion pound budget.

    I’d rather a competent bastard were mayor than an incompetent charmer… which is precisely why I’ll be voting Ken tomorrow.

  5. History is littered with “competent bastards” – Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot to name a few. Give me an “incompetent charmer” any day.

  6. My biggest frustration with Boris is that he often comes out with sensible things, but then disguises it all in buffoonery.

    Take his comment about ‘picaninnies’.
    Its actually spot on, the Queen probably does love the Commonwealth because it provides her with plenty of adoring, flag waiving moments. In fact, the picaninny comment could be construed as being the view taken by members of the royal family of these people rather than Boris Johnson’s view.
    Unfortunately, predictably the focus was on that word rather than the point.

  7. Mao at least killed more people through incompetence than ideology. The jury’s still out on Stalin (it all depends on whether you believe dekulakisation was primarily a class-based democide or primarily a way of ensuring the availability of workers and food for industrialisation).

    Pol Pot and Hitler, yup, I think they’re definitely in the competent bastard camp.

  8. Little Black Sambo

    Inattention to detail is a kind of laziness, but intellectual laziness combined with intellectual brilliance is likely to provide exciting and possibly visionary leadership, if Boris is good at selecting competent people to work for him.

  9. There were stooges when Mr Johnson was en route to be president of the Oxford Union. He has had stooges all through journalism, who did significant parts of his various jobs for him, usually with little thanks or reward. And now there are stooges in politics.

    I’m still wondering why this is considered to be a bad thing. He’d go down a storm on an oil and gas project.

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