by The Nameless Libertarian
It has to be said that I am not the world’s biggest fan of Boris Johnson. Yes, I get that he has charisma in an era of politics where charisma is a rarity, if not an almost extinct, quality. But the reality is that, in power, his policies are at best anodyne and at worst asinine. And no manufactured façade or pointless post-Olympics euphoria* can change that.
However, nothing can make me buy into the incumbent London mayor more than a hatchet job from the former Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith.
It begins with Smith showing just the most basic awareness of what has been happening in her chosen field (politics):
Boris Johnson is certainly having a ‘good Olympics’. The newspapers are full of summer stories about his potential threat to Cameron’s leadership.
This opening is worth celebrating because, my good friends, it represents the very pinnacle of quality and writing ability in Smith’s article. All downhill from here, I’m afraid.
I’m not convinced that Mayor Johnson will become Tory leader or prime minister. First, as Steve Richards pointed out in a good Independent piece this week, there are major barriers to him even being in a position to compete. Would he remain so popular if he dumped his London role in order to get back into parliament, for example?
The counterpoint to this tired argument – which has been rehearsed again and again during the hype around the costly and over-rated Global School Sports Day – is so tedious that it is almost not worth repeating. But for old time’s sake as the Olympics are finally – and gloriously – over; Johnson doesn’t have to dump London in order to become an MP and thus get back into parliament. He could do both at the same time. Like a certain Labour former Mayor of London.
Second, while he is undoubtedly popular in London, I wonder how his style would translate to the rest of the country. Let’s not forget that David Cameron encouraged other cities to vote for an elected mayor on the grounds that ‘every city needs a Boris’. The result was hardly a resounding vote of confidence in the politician who personifies the role of elected mayor.
Oh, please. The failure of the “yes” campaigns in the elected mayor campaigns has little to do with Cameron’s rhetoric linking the concept with BoJo. It has far more to do with it being the policy of a government suffering with a chronic – if not fatal – case of the mid-term blues. But I love the failed rhetoric of the attempt to make Boris the personification of the elected mayor; what about Ken Livingstone, who served two terms as London mayor? Or the candidate in a monkey suit in Hartlepool? Or does Smith have such faith in the Boris brand that she thinks he has managed to wipe every other elected mayor in history from the popular imagination?
Third, while mayor of London is an important job it is arguably not as tough and nowhere near as serious as being even a cabinet minister let alone PM. Johnson remains untested through the grind of ministerial life and as a shadow minister he proved not only gaffe prone, but also not particularly interesting or innovative.
Funnily enough, “gaffe prone” and “not particularly interesting or innovative” could nicely define Smith’s time in the Home Office. And that’s when she wasn’t being authoritarian and draconian. And I also love the fact that Smith is able to judge the toughness and seriousness of being London mayor even though, well, she’s never done the job. I guess her get-out here would be the use of the word “arguably”. Well, arguably, Jacqui, it is fair to say that you have no idea what you are talking about.
Finally, I hope the Tory party and the British people will see through his facade. My challenge to Johnson is: why do you put on an affable, unworldly, untidy persona when that is so obviously not who you really are.
No doubt he is quaking in his boots at this challenge from a discredited, failed politician.
And even the most basic glance at Johnson’s career would show that he is more than just an untidy hairdo and a bumbling personality. Anyone fooled by his façade is a moron, really,
I worked with Johnson while I was home secretary. He proved utterly ruthless in cutting off Met Commissioner Ian Blair at the knees immediately after his election. I don’t believe people should make their way in politics by trashing other people, but that was his clear aim in getting rid of a commissioner who had led the Met during a time of falling crime and reform. Others have commented on Johnson’s lack of team spirit – I can remember him turning up so late for a COBRA meeting on Olympic security that the meeting was ending as he burst into the room.
First up, Ian Blair was an cunt on a cosmic scale whose incompetent ineptitude means he has blood on his hands. If BoJo was responsible for his fall, then he deserves a medal for cutting Blair off at the knees. Hell, it may yet be his greatest achievement.
The COBRA charge is more interesting – in fact, it may be the most interesting part of the whole article because, when deconstructed, it shows just how flawed Smith’s attempted rhetoric is. Ignoring the slightly sad attempt to remind us all that she used to hold and important office and had to go to important meetings about important stuff, what she appears to be doing is suggesting that Boris was in some way negligent on something so crucial as a vital meeting on Olympic security. Yet even the most basic fact checking shows that this meeting was very probably far from essential.
Let’s break it down, then. Boris was elected Mayor of London in May of 2008. Smith resigned as Home Secretary in June 2009. So there were 13 months in which this meeting – assuming Smith is telling the truth about is existence (sadly, a big leap of faith for our political class) – could have taken place. Crucially, though, the latest it could have happened was just over three years before the London Olympics was scheduled to take place. This removes a lot of the ersatz urgency on the meeting that Smith is trying to create. Perhaps BoJo was late because he had priorities other than trying to plan security for an event that was still years away. Yup, you can argue that this does show a lack of team spirit. But you can also argue that it shows a politician who can prioritise.
And given COBRA meetings are meant to be emergency responses to catastrophic events hitting the UK, the real question is why the fuck was it convened to discuss security for an event that was still years away? The answer, I’m guessing, is that Gordon Brown had a hard-on for COBRA, presumably because it reassured him that he was a very important person with lots of important power. The same goes for his shitty ministers
I know people are disenchanted with ‘traditional’ politics, but it is wrong to respond to this by suggesting that elected politics is something you can fit in between writing your lucrative newspaper column and appearing on television gameshows.
Oh, please. Who the fuck is making the sort of assertion that Smith cites here? Yes, if such a person existed, they’d be a dickhead. But to actually meet with someone who believes in what Smith writes here would be meeting with a straw man.
And if you want to know what most people do want to overcome their disenchantment with traditional politics, it is politicians with ethics, convictions and solutions to the problems the last Labour government created for us all. And preferably politicians who don’t use their expenses to pay for their husband’s wank material.
To become a senior politician, you will have put other parts of your life like your career and family on the back-burner in order to even get to a position where you can face the electorate.
Do you have any evidence that Johnson has not done this, Jacqui? Any at all? Because Johnson is currently a senior politician who has a mandate from over a million voters (as opposed to someone who could not convince thousands of people in Redditch to return her to Parliament less than 12 months after holding one of the Great Office of State).
Fighting and winning an election involves an immense amount of energy, stamina and quick-thinking as you meet and talk to hundreds of people each day.
Swing and a miss from Smith. Once again. Aside from the fact that taking advice on winning elections from someone whose recent electoral history would suggest that she isn’t the go-to person in this field, it is worth noting that BoJo defied electoral gravity this May by retaining his role as London mayor. Sure, he was greatly aided by the fact that he was running against an odious candidate who managed to alienate members of his own party with his execrable opinions, but if I was to run for office** I’d be more inclined to ask BoJo for advice than the loser that is Jacqui Smith***.
You need to have thought through your position on a whole range of issues or you will soon be caught out. And quite rightly. Being an elected politician is an immense honour and a great responsibility.
So, when in office, it might be best not to exploit, say, the expenses system to your own advantage? Or so your other half can have a cheeky one off the wrist?
You are a voice for those you represent; you embody the mandate granted in our democratic system. This isn’t something that you should suggest can be achieved lightly.
Don’t think anyone is suggesting this can be achieved lightly, Jacqui. But nothing beats a good straw man argument now, does it?
Acting as if you woke up in City Hall one morning and are now engaged on Boris’ Big Adventure; artfully ruffling your hair to suggest that you’re not really bothered about your appearance; turning up late to important meetings so that other important people have to wait for you are designed to make you stand out from the political crowd. They are a tactic as clever as any other political tactic and people should not be taken in by them.
What, a political tactic like claiming to be a “pretty straight kind of guy” or “not Flash, just Gordon”? And what makes Boris stand out is not so much his unkempt hair but the fact that he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously and has a basic level of charisma. Perhaps this is Smith’s problem with BoJo, at the end of the day. Because she comes across as a po-faced authoritarian with all the charisma of decaying roadkill. And that’s before we factor in the fact that this article so wonderfully reminds us of the reality of Jacqui Smith, politician – an unashamed party hack, spewing forth the Labour line with the sort of unthinking devotion that would be humorous if these fuckers weren’t trying to run all of our lives for us.
*Which may well be dented by the fact that the closing ceremony – judging by the Facebook comments I read on the night of said ceremony – was a steaming turd served up with a hearty marinade of liquid shit.
**Rest assured, kind read, that this will never happen. Ever.
***Yeah, yeah, there were boundary changes etc etc. But if Ed Balls – who has the personality of an aggressive form of anthrax mixed with rabies – can carry his constituency at the time of a great big swing against Labour, then I don’t think it is too much to expect Smith to do the same, Of course, we can cite things such as the expenses scandal as damaging her chances. But whose fault was Smith’s tainting in the expenses scandal? Exactly.