Ach. That floppy hair, and that sodding bicycle. Has any man ever before managed to persuade such a huge number of people that he was a decent chap on two such flimsy, trivial, irrelevant, modish pieces of ephemera?
Never mind what a laughing stock we’d be, internationally, if we elected Boris Johnson as mayor. Never mind what a mess he’d make of the whole thing, how unproven he is in anything beyond having a big gob, never mind that if we think Ken Livingstone lives high on the taxi hog, God alone knows what this moneyed creep would get up to. Never mind all that for the moment. Let’s just concentrate on this myth of his being a nice guy. He is not a nice guy.
Two mistakes we make about Boris: the first is that, because he says “unacceptable” things, then he must be honest; he must be outside the airless bubble of PC. This is bilge. He is no more honest than any other philanderer before him. He has lied flagrantly, flamboyantly, to save his marriage, and given how little else he’s prepared to do for it, one must conclude that he doesn’t put a very great premium on telling the truth. So if he gives out these apparently harsh truths about gay people or Liverpudlians or the people of Congo, it is not because the fire of truth burns so brightly within him that he can’t snuff it out. It is because he genuinely despises these people. He despises gays and he despises provincials (you are all right with Boris if you come from Liverpool but don’t sound like a Liverpudlian. Once you’ve been to public school, then you are from postcode POSH), and he despises Africans. He despises them, and he despises those of us who would hold such judgments to be bigoted and inhuman.
Am I being unfair? Let’s recap – he pooh-poohed gay marriage with an assessment that was actually pretty droll, but contained within it, of course, total derision for the outlandish idea that you might be homosexual and also have feelings of love and permanence. “If gay marriage was OK – and I was uncertain on the issue – then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog.” OK, at this point, maybe he’s just saying it for a laugh. Maybe he doesn’t mean it. That would be fine, except he does mean it. As recently as 2000 – he wasn’t just some young man in a hurry, trying to make a point about Clause 28 to curry Thatcher’s favour – he was on about “The essence of that Tory case is unchanged … it is more sensitive to spare parents’ anxieties than to allow leftwing local authorities to waste taxpayers’ money on idiotic and irrelevant homosexual instruction.” Irrelevant homosexual instruction? He would have us believe that, conversely, the Labour party wants children to give up maths and concentrate on gay sex? Come on! He has all the mendacity, the slyness, the patronising sleight of hand that the Daily Mail spews out, only he doesn’t seem so outright unpleasant, because of … that sodding hair and that poxing bicycle.
His views on Liverpool were remarkable only because they led to his sacking; I’ll wager he feels the same about anywhere that isn’t Mayfair or the Highlands, pretty much. His line on Africa he gave out in 2002, when Blair visited Congo: “No doubt,” he said, “the AK47s will fall silent and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.” It ought to beggar belief, oughtn’t it? Not that this self-satisfied creature of privilege should hold such views, but that he should be able to spout them and then have us all instantly forget about it. What are we, idiots?
The second mistake, by the way, is to think he singles out any one group for his casual bile. It’s not just gay people or Muslims or Africans, it’s not just people from Portsmouth or indeed anywhere else on the south coast. He despises people who are not of his class because he is a snob. That, pretty much, means all of us. A snob’s London is a Monday-to-Thursday kind of affair, behind fusty doors, in clubs that only just let women in, let alone plebs, in restaurants that don’t have prices on the menus, in the Regency offices of magazines whose only distinction is that all the staff are shagging each other. They disappear to the country at weekends, then come back muttering on Monday about how the poor generate litter. That is not London. I’m not going to do some New Labour drum-roll about creativity and youth and multiculturalism, since we don’t need it. We know what London is. Boris is not London.