Tuesday, March 29, 2016

More opinions for and against Boris

To illustrate my point about how some of the narrative of split within political parties has been driven by the press, you need only look at the way the press has treated London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Since former MP Matthew Parris savaged Boris Johnson in the Times on Saturday there have been a plethora of articles both in his defence and agreeing with the criticisms.

In some ways even more damning that Matthew's attack, and nearly as savage, was Nick Cohen's piece in the Guardian, "Boris Johnson - liar conman and Prime Minister?"

On the other side of the fence, apart from Iain Martin's robust defence of Boris Johnson at CapX, was a fairly supportive article here  from the Independent's Chief Political commentator John Rentoul.

Interestingly what all four of these columns have in common is that both the supportive ones and the  hostile ones give Boris Johnson a better chance of becoming Conservative leader than I think is realistic - you can never tell how a Conservative leadership election is going to go.

I think the Screaming Eagles at Political Betting is closer to being right when he points out that Boris has not had a good referendum campaign so far and will need to do better to make the last two candidates who will be put to the ballot of Conservative members. He would not be the first "favourite" to fail to make the final stage, as Michael Portillo could tell him.

But the fairest assessment of Boris's record and chances is the one offered by Paul Goodman at Conservative Home in his piece today "The truth about Boris" which perhaps makes the best attempt to include both the good and the bad.

In particular Paul points out that "If there is a sturdy case against Boris there is also a persuasive case for him.  He has twice been elected Mayor of one of the greatest cities in the world.  He thus has the biggest personal mandate of any British politician.  That he has achieved this double in a Labour-leaning city is a gobsmacking achievement."

"He has not messed up as Mayor, to say the least, and has been rather a good one, to put the point more strongly.  Crime is down.  The tube is being modernised.  A record number of homes is being built.  He beats the drum for London with oomph and makes the case for it with pizzazz.  He twinkled during the Olympics like a star.  He understands how to delegate and some of his appointments have been top-notch."

"The claim that Boris is simply incapable of doing a major political job has been comprehensively debunked.  He has earned a shot at holding a Cabinet post.  It is not at all absurd to claim that, before too long is out, he could earn a shot at the top one.

That’s the point: could.  This man, whose “anchor is firmly secured in a kind of humane and cheerful moderation”; who “has some of the qualities of a great and inspirational leader” and who could even be “a rather brilliant Prime Minister”, is not a contender for the Party leadership at present, if only because no election is taking place, and he may never be one at all.  All those quotes, by the way, are from Matthew Parris (see here and here) – the very same author of last Saturday’s article."

"I see no reason to make up my mind about whether the Mayor of London would be a better prospect.  I will neither worship at the Temple of Boris nor violate its sacred groves.  For all I know, David Cameron will be in place as Prime Minister until 2019 or so – and, despite rising irritation at his tactless handling of his party, believe on balance that he should be."

Paul will make up his mind whether to vote for Boris if and when the time comes. So will I.

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