Saturday, 29 March 2008

Any Questions? Yes: Where's Boris?

We have all seen the cartoons, but has anyone seen the man?

After successive appearances from both Ken Livingstone and Brian Paddick on Radio 4's 'Any Questions' I was looking forward to Boris Johnson going through a similar public grilling. However, all my hopes were dashed when it was announced that Boris had well and truly bottled it.

Jonathan Dimbleby told the audience of the popular BBC radio show that: 

"inevitably we asked the other leading candidate Boris Johnson, if he would like to join the programme, and he declined, saying that he didn't wish to discuss national issues while he was concentrating on the London Mayoral election."

Now quite aside from the extraordinary nature of Boris not wanting to appear on a panel show, this is quite unbelievable. Here we have a man who may soon be the most powerful Conservative politician in the land, who could be a regular feature on both the national and the international stage, and yet he is too scared to submit himself to even a fraction of the scrutiny that he will face if he becomes London Mayor.

There have been reports here and here of Boris being hidden from the press, and other reports that he is being kept off the booze. But are we now facing the serious possibility that Boris could pedal into City Hall without undertaking any serious public scrutiny at all? 

Coverage of the mayoral elections has so far been entirely dominated by allegations of cronyism from the Evening Standard and their pals, with the occasional light relief of Boris planting trees and chatting to bus drivers. But on all the key issues that the capital faces, there has been almost no serious analysis of what the different candidates are offering.

But even more important than policies is the question of whether these three men can do the job. Brian Paddick is a celebrated police chief who is willing to make brave decisions and to answer to the consequences. Similarly, Ken Livingstone has put in place radical and controversial policies and has faced his critics head-on from day one. And then we have Boris.

Boris can cope with reading a speech or making a video. He has even managed to bluster his way through the occasional interview. But when it comes to facing point by point, issue by issue scrutiny, Boris is just completely and irreversibly sunk.

Demonstration of this can be found in today's Independent where Johann Hari interviews each candidate on gay issues. Paddick puts in a workmanlike performance, and Livingstone is as ever totally on the ball. But when it comes to Boris, Hari is astounded by his lack of knowledge:

"on all the questions, he seems to go into a sort of panicked free association where he desperately tries to find a link to something he knows about. When I ask him what he would do to reduce the sky-high rate of suicide among gay teenagers, he starts talking about the need to get kids out of gangs."

Even on his own voting record, the Henley MP was lost at sea. When asked why he voted to support Section 28, Boris appeared unsure as to what exactly that vote was all about. By the end of the interview Hari was left with little more than a few gags to fill the article.

The problem for Boris and for London is that there is only so much bendy buses and conductors can do for you and at some point over a term as mayor, some other questions just might come up. And whether you like Boris or not, this election could leave his clumsy hands on one of the most powerful and wealthy cities in the world. 

And when the camera crews have gone and his office door has swung shut, we could be left with a very lost and helpless man looking out over London. 

---UPDATE--- Clues as to why Boris is being kept off the airwaves can be found at Dave Hill's 'Live' Blog of the mayoral hustings


asquith said...

I worry that all the idiots will vote for him because he's on the TV. Stranger things have happened. He'd be hard-pressed to get any support on the basis of his policies. But the retards and the anything-in-a-blue-rosette brigade might be enough to carry him to victory.

Although it isn't right to take pleasure in other people's misery, I'd almost welcome a BoJo victory because he'd make such a hash of running London that the Tories would be discredited :)

The Tory Troll said...

It might be some small consolation for Labour and the Lib Dems, but not much fun for the people like myself who actually have to live here.

The other possibility is that the actual running of the city will be hived off to some faceless beaurocrats while Boris just sits in his office signing forms. It's the vote Boris, get some tory anonymong option. Again, this might be pretty miserable for Boris but it would be even more miserable for the rest of us

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. It's funny, and wholly wrong in analysis.

Gotta love freedom of speech so that you can use it to spread malignant and ridiculous suggestions as to Boris going on a PANEL!

He's the only one talking about gang violence seriously in the capital, as oppose to Ken's opinion which is that its a media created frenzy saying "If it bleeds, it leads". Just in case you're wondering ELEVEN teenagers murdered since the start of the year - thats nearly one a week!

Ken has balkanised London and I for one will not be voting for him.

The Tory Troll said...

You can vote for who you like and as a blogger I can analyse as I like. Isn't it wonderful? As for 'malignant and ridiculous suggestions' I'm not quite sure what you mean. Boris wouldn't or wasn't allowed to appear on the panel of any questions. Nothing malignant about that. Just the truth.

As for all the stuff about crime, I'm not sure standing on buses and saying 'I will sort out gangs' is the same as actually being able to do anything about it. In fact the very fact that Boris has made Crime his central theme is revealing in itself as it is the one area that the mayor of London has very little control over. If Boris realises that then he is misleading London and if he doesn't then he isn't up to the job.

Anonymous said...

Actually the Mayor can take an active role in policing, and on social matters. Something which Ken has been unwilling to do, he'd rather kow-tow to Islamic extremists.

He's another revealing thing, the reason Ken doesn't get involved on this, is because he knows he can and should have done more to stop the social climate which now pervades in many of London's no-go estates. He's far more comfortable blaming Thatcher and the Tories in the 1980s not thinking for a second that actually the kids killing and dying now were born early to mid nineties, and have grown up under a patronising New Labour administration and incidentally 8 years of Livingstone ruled London.

The idea you can defer responsibility back twenty years is bizarre.

The Tory Troll said...

Oh dear we're drifting off the point a bit here. Can you put a name on your posts please. It makes it easier to follow.