Like Marilyn, Boris is loveable and it’ll take him to No10
WATCHING Boris sitting next to the Duchess of Cornwall at the Olympics opening ceremony, two thoughts popped into my head.
The first was: "Thank God it's not Ken." Can you imagine the embarrassment of London being represented by that peevish newt-lover in the eyes of the world?
The second was about Britain's political future. Will anyone be able to stop Boris succeeding David Cameron as the next leader of the Conservative Party after the success of London 2012?
Three years ago I produced a film for Channel 4 about the long-standing rivalry between the two of them and that rivalry has been very evident in the past few days.
The Olympics has been described as Wimbledon, the World Cup and the Super Bowl rolled into one, and each of these Conservative politicians is keen to position himself as the master of ceremonies.
So far, Boris is the hands-down winner. His speech in Hyde Park, when he slapped down US presidential candidate Mitt Romney for claiming London wasn't ready to host the Games, captured the public mood.
Boris is warm and spontaneous, whereas the Prime Minister seems a bit wooden when trying to convey his enthusiasm for the Olympics, as if reading from a script. The mayor has a connection with the public that Dave can only dream about.
Boris's biographer Andrew Gimson puts this down to his resemblance to Marilyn Monroe — and he's not just talking about the hair.
"People love him because he makes them laugh, but also because they glimpse the hurt young kid behind the laughter," he says. "Boris’s vulnerability is akin to someone like Marilyn Monroe's: it is part of his attraction and, like her, he can use it to seduce audiences pretty much at will."
Pundits have been speculating about Boris's leadership ambition for years but it will surely reach fever pitch after the Games of the XXX Olympiad.
Three things stand in his way.
First, there's the small matter of him not being an MP, a prerequisite of becoming leader of the Conservative Party. But I don't think that's an insurmountable problem.
If a vacancy arises at the top, you can bet your bottom dollar Boris will find a way of getting back into Parliament.
Second, he doesn't currently enjoy much support among the Parliamentary Party and it's Tory MPs who will ultimately choose the next leader. But that, too, is hardly a deal breaker.
Their principal concern will be retaining their seats and no other Conservative politician can hold a candle to Boris when it comes to popularity. Indeed, if Cameron#s approval ratings slip any further, they may start clamouring for Boris to replace him before the next election.
The third reason people have their doubts about Boris is that he's not serious enough. This, I think, is his biggest obstacle. The criticism here is not just that he's a bit of a buffoon, but that he doesn't believe in anything.
He isn't committed to any cause beyond his own self-advancement.
But people said the same thing about Churchill — right up to the moment be became the greatest Prime Minister this country has ever seen.
Boris may not be wedded to any particular ideology, but few would doubt his patriotism — and that might be just the quality we need in a Prime Minister if we're to save the union and claw back powers we've ceded to the EU.
A wise man once said the most powerful force in politics is inevitability. Once you convince people something is bound to happen it's almost impossible to prevent.
If Boris can persuade people he deserves some credit for these Olympic Games, his ascension to the top of the Conservative Party will begin to look inevitable.
Boyle's missing heroes
I WASN'T bowled over by Danny Boyle's lavish opening ceremony at the Olympics.
Some of it was great, like the bit featuring the Queen and James Bond but, at other moments, it felt like a three-hour party political broadcast for the Labour Party.
That whole section in the middle about the National Health Service, for instance.
Yet it wasn't the stuff Boyle included that irritated me, more the stuff he left out. Where were Britain's great scientists like Newton and Darwin? Why was the only reference to the Commonwealth a glimpse of the Empire Windrush?
There was plenty of social history, but little military history. Where were Nelson and Wellington? Why were there so few references to the Second World War and only a fleeting glimpse of Churchill?
One of Britain's proudest achievements is the huge price we’ve paid in blood and treasure to save the world from tyranny. Would it have been politically incorrect to include that in the opening ceremony?
As I say, I didn't hate Danny Boyle’s efforts. I just wish he'd thrown the Tories in the audience a few more bones.
Gove lesson for unions
MICHAEL GOVE'S much-needed reforms of our state education system continue apace.
On Friday he announced that, from now on, when a school becomes an academy it will be allowed to employ those it believes are best qualified for the job, including those without a union-approved teaching certificate.
Christine Blower, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, says: "This is a perverse decision by the Department for Education and a clear dereliction of duty."
Dereliction of duty?
Not to the kids at academies, it isn't. They can now be taught by the best practitioners in their field.
But it's a blow to organisations like the NUT who will no longer be the gatekeepers of the teaching profession.