I like Boris Johnson. He has daft hair and a highly-developed sense of humour. When he comes on the telly you listen, because you don’t know what he’ll come out with next. Few politicians can match him as an entertainer. That’s why so many people voted him into the office of London’s Mayor. It’s such a relief to get a guy who’s got a bit of red blood in his veins, likes to lark around some and is always good for a witty one-liner.
He was at it again yesterday. He was giving the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture and he said he hoped there’d be no return to the loadsamoney days, “figuratively riffling banknotes under the noses of the homeless”. He said that 16% of the British public had an IQ below 85 and 2% had an IQ over 130. He then asked those in his audience who were among the 16% to raise their hands. As for all this talk about social equality, he thinks it’s bunkum: “Some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity”. And he noted that 1% of people account for 30% of tax collected: “So why, I asked innocently, are they so despicable in the eyes of all decent British people? Surely they should be hailed like the Stakhanovites of Stalin’s Russia, who half-killed themselves, in the name of the people, by mining record tonnages of coal?”
And while people were still rocking at this comparison of Britain’s super-rich with the coal-miners of Stalinist Russia, he rounded things off with a mixture of modesty and naughtiness: “We may not have many gunboats any more, but we hardly need them, because we are already fulfilling our destiny as the soft power capital of the world – and that is thanks to a woman who knew all about soft power and the deep Freudian terror that every man has for the inner recesses of a handbag.”
George Bernard Shaw had Professor Higgins declare that the French don’t care what they do as long as they pronounce it correctly. The British (and maybe the Irish as well) don’t mind what their politicians do, as long as they give them a laugh and emerge as a bit of a lad, a broth of a boy. There was something of Boris about Charlie Haughey, only much more dignified. Sammy Wilson is the officially-designated DUP laugh-maker and Barry McElduff to a lesser extent does the job for Sinn Féin. But such men are dangerous, certainly if they get their hands on the leadership reins and most certainly if they answer to the name of Boris. Johnson is busy placing himself firmly to the right of David Cameron, and if he gets a chance – which he may well do if Cameron loses the next election – he will lead the Tories with a greed-is-good fervour that will elicit loud clapping sounds from Margaret Thatcher’s grave.