Boris Johnson brushed clouds of doubt aside today as The Sun newspaper endorsed him for Mayor. In a double page spread, Britains highest-selling paper told their readers to kick out 'Caracas' Ken and vote in 'Mayor Race Favourite' Boris
The London edition of the paper also devoted their entire 'Sun Says' column to the race, urging their readers to pick 'a new and fresh Champion for London.' And just in case their readers still didn't know how to vote the paper included a handy 'how you can vote' section.
Of course The Sun's endorsement of Boris Johnson should come as little surprise. Boris is in many ways the ideal Sun candidate. Here is a public school toff posing as a friend of the working class. A man who speaks almost entirely in mockney puns without actually saying anything even mildly offensive to Murdoch and his chums.
Quite simply he is a win-win candidate for the paper. If he fails as Mayor then he provides acres of stories and if he succeeds as mayor then nothing is lost. Even if he does fail, a Mayor Boris can blame all of his failures on a hostile Labour government. This in turn would be a plus for Murdoch, as he would have yet another stick with which to whip Brown.
In fact there are increasing signs that this will be the Tory tactic if Johnson becomes Mayor. In recent weeks Boris has proposed a range of policies that the Conservatives know he has no chance of getting through. These policies include local control of the smoking ban, building an airport in the Thames Estuary, and a new pledge to retain criminal assets.
When the government says no to these policies, the Tories and their pals in the media will turn, not on Boris for making hollow promises, but on the Labour government for holding Boris back. "Here is an example" they will say, "of why we need to boot Labour out."
So as the Tory press come out for Boris, you have to ask yourself what their real reasons are. Boris' mates in the media, like his mates on the front bench, know full well how unreliable Boris can be. Boris has made great play of having run The Spectator but even Boris' pals know how little he actually did. Because they all know that he is not capable of running the capital, but at the same time they don't really care.
Last summer I was working in a national newspaper office as the Glasgow airport attacks were taking place. There was a rush of excitement as pictures of the burning car were beamed onto their screens. "Has anyone been hurt?" somebody shouted. "Has anyone been killed?" The look of disappointment when he heard that nobody had, has stayed with me ever since
Because what you have to remember with some parts of the the press is that they want the worst to happen. A recent advert for BBC News has Robert Peston gloating about being the first to report the collapse of Northern Rock. "There was no doubt" he says with a smile, "that this was a BBC story."
However, as one person writing in to the channel pointed out, there was also no doubt that this was a story about lots of people losing lots of money. "What is there to boast about," the viewer asked, "in hearing bad news a few hours before everyone else?"
So when the Tory press come out for Boris, are they really just getting the bad news in early? This is the way the country is going they say. You won't be voting Labour in the future so let's get going now. Labour is last years news and we have a 'new and fresh Champion' for you. Of course they know that Boris won't make things better, but at the same time they've got headlines to fill.
So when they tell their readers what's best for them, are they actually thinking about what's best for themselves? And with both main parties so close in policies, is it these other factors that will come to the fore?
Because when the next general election comes around, a change of government will mean a change of news. And when the press consider who to endorse will they be asking "what's best for Britian?" or simply "what's the worst that can happen?"
-UPDATE- This post now also appears as an article on the excellent Liberal Conspiracy website.