Boris got his just desserts

25th March, 2013 2:18 pm

Boris Johnson’s nightmare interview on The Andrew Marr Show yesterday morning is the kind of encounter that changes perceptions about a politician. Not perhaps in the court of public opinion – Sunday morning political TV is the preserve of the political anorak community – but here, such things matter.

Yesterday was an unmitigated disaster for the London Mayor, pricking the hubris of his pretensions to the Tory throne by exposing the limits of his carefully crafted buffoonery which usually helps him dodge the kind of basic scrutiny every other politician takes as par for the course.

Yesterday is the first time I can recall an interviewer not prepared to play Boris’s game. Stand-in presenter Eddie Mair is a highly effective inquisitor who never raises his voice and rarely cuts in. His questions were direct and persistently put; dredging up the less salubrious parts of the Johnson tale.

Mair asked Boris why he had lied to Michael Howard about an affair, got sacked as a junior reporter for The Times for fabricating a quote and discussed with his friend Darius Guppy, how he could obtain the address of a journalist Guppy wanted to assault.

“You’re a nasty piece of work aren’t you?” Mair chided.

The mechanics of yesterday’s encounter were also important. Boris’s usual way of handling interviews is to speak across the interviewer, refusing to engage with the questions put to him. He tries humour at first, but when this doesn’t work he drifts off at inarticulate tangents or falls back on his bumbling esoteric rhetoric until the interviewer runs out of time.

It didn’t work yesterday because he was snared in a lengthy fifteen minute interview with nowhere to hide. He was left sounding weak, evasive and oddly for an intelligent man, pretty dumb.

The look of shock on his face was because Boris usually benefits from being part of a cosy London club of politicians and journalists who think it bad form to give one of their own gang a hard time. That’s why the John Humprhies and Jeremy Paxmans can always be relied upon to give him the kid gloves treatment in interviews.

Dan Hodges at the Telegraph wrote yesterday that Boris should have told Mair to mind his own business when quizzed about his affair. Perhaps he should have, but Boris didn’t because the claims have been unchallenged in the public domain for so long they don’t appear to bear refutation.

But was it unfair to throw these questions at Johnson? Not in the context of an in-depth biographical documentary set for broadcast tonight it wasn’t. Boris argued that the BBC had already commissioned the programme ‘Boris Johnson: The Irresistible Rise’, so thought it better to join in.

Most other politicians would have remained apart from the whole thing, sensing the inherent danger of a forensic investigation by the veteran political sleuth Michael Cockerell. However Boris needs attention – adulation preferably – in the same way a fish needs water.

Yesterday he found himself flapping around on the hook, only too keen to have gobbled the bait of an agenda-setting Sunday morning interview where he must have known he would be asked about the documentary’s contents.

Over in the Downing Street bunker it wasn’t the sound of flapping so much as slapping as Cameroons high-fived each other, glad to see this 220lb man-mountain of human ambition taken down a peg.

Tory MPs looking for a new saviour will now keep looking.

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]
  • Amber_Star

    Mark, “…dredging up the more salubrious parts of the Johnson tale.” I think you meant to write less salubrious.

  • Amber_Star

    Mark, “…dredging up the more salubrious parts of the Johnson tale.” I think you meant to write less salubrious.

  • Amber_Star

    Having done my little bit of proof reading, I just want to add that the Boris interview was very amusing. Political anoraks we may be but if Boris actually achieved the Tory leadership, “You’re a Nasty Piece of Work, aren’t you?” would be all over the social media & YouTube. Unless he pulls a glittering rabbit out of his hat, Boris’s ambition to lead the Tory Party has been dealt a death blow by Eddie Mair.

    • They haven’t been dealt a blow. It is Boris, you’re talking about. This is the man who did nothing in his first term as Mayor, had two affairs, lied to his party leader, failed over his handling over the riots, lied to Conrad Black on standing for Parliament, insulted most of the country in one way or another and he is still standing, in fact rising. People will be laughing, Cameron and Theresa May will be rubbing their hands with joy right now but if he ever becomes PM with Adam Afriyie as his Chancellor, people most certainly will not be laughing.

  • Amber_Star

    Having done my little bit of proof reading, I just want to add that the Boris interview was very amusing. Political anoraks we may be but if Boris actually achieved the Tory leadership, “You’re a Nasty Piece of Work, aren’t you?” would be all over the social media & YouTube. Unless he pulls a glittering rabbit out of his hat, Boris’s ambition to lead the Tory Party has been dealt a death blow by Eddie Mair.

  • Agree Kevin.

    It has been a very inverse reaction (from some) that the real scandal here is that Eddie Mair dared to ask these questions – and not that Boris had actually indulged in these various acts.

    “Yesterday is the first time I can recall an interviewer not prepared to play Boris’s game. ”

    Absolument.

  • This interview won’t change much for Boris’ leadership ambitions. His party still love him, he still has a strong team around him and he still is as ambitious as ever. It might be amusing now, but just imagine the 2020 General Election, Boris Johnson with his Shadow Chancellor Adam Afriyie – we might be laughing now, but people won’t be laughing then.

  • MonkeyBot5000

    You’ve got to love Eddie Mair. He’s such a contrast to Paxman that interviewees don’t realise that he’s skewered them until it’s too late.

  • Daniel Speight

    Dan Hodges at the Telegraph wrote yesterday that Boris should have told Mair to mind his own business when quizzed about his affair.

    Well Hodges would say that, wouldn’t he?

    Just a thought. Do you think Bozier and Hodges are still great mates? They would make a good team Johnson.

    • Well it was a good article from Dan Hodges and he is right to say that Boris should have said that. I would have.

Latest

  • Featured News Seats and Selections Luciana Berger in running for Liverpool City Region Mayor

    Luciana Berger in running for Liverpool City Region Mayor

    Luciana Berger will today become the third candidate in the race to get the Labour nomination for the Liverpool City Region Mayor election. Berger, who attends Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Minister for Mental Health, will announce her bid with a speech to local Labour members this afternoon. She is the second shadow minister to launch their candidacy for a new directly elected mayor position in a North West city, following Andy Burnham kicking off his Greater Manchester Mayor campaign earlier […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Sadiq Khan has stuck his neck on the line – but he hasn’t “discredited” Labour

    Sadiq Khan has stuck his neck on the line – but he hasn’t “discredited” Labour

    One evening at Labour Conference 2009, those of us attending from my constituency party met for a meal in a restaurant on the Brighton seafront. Our waiter was very excited to regale us with his familial tie to Labour royalty. “My great-great uncle was a Labour Prime Minister,” the waiter told us. “But I’m afraid you won’t like him: it was Ramsay MacDonald.” On cue, our well-oiled delegates treated him to panto hisses. “Now,” interrupted one, “I actually think there’s room for some reappraisal of Ramsay […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Uncategorized Sharon Hodgson: Labour will always stand up for children with special educational needs

    Sharon Hodgson: Labour will always stand up for children with special educational needs

    Since the Government announced its Schools White Paper last month, focus has been on their ham-fisted plans for the forced academisation of all schools. Though Ministers have subsequently U-turned on these flawed plans – after mounting opposition led by Labour and including parents, school leaders, teachers, governors, local councillors and their own backbenches – it is clear that they are still intent on obsessing over forcing or coaxing every school in England to become an academy. This fixation with school structures comes at the expense of raising standards for […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Jess Phillips hit by 600 rape tweets in one night

    Jess Phillips hit by 600 rape tweets in one night

    Jess Phillips has spoken of her disgust after receiving 600 tweets in one night about her rape. The Birmingham Yardley was bombarded with vile messages after launching a campaign to end online sexist bullying. “To see the attack of a pack on here check out my mentions 600 odd notifications talking about my rape in one night. I think twitter is dead,” she wrote on the online platform. Phillips, who was sexually assaulted as a teenager, today described the revolting […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Uncategorized Labour must view immigration as a political opportunity rather than an obstacle

    Labour must view immigration as a political opportunity rather than an obstacle

    In 2014, the last reliable figures that take ethnicity into account, there were 790,000 Poles living in the UK. With EU net migration still in the positive, and suggestions these figures might be a grossly underestimated, the total number could be significantly higher. To be clear, this is not a piece about immigration, or, at least, not about its effects on Britain, but about what policies may convince Polish migrants to vote Labour. Because the Tories have a head start. As EU migrants, most […]

    Read more →
x

LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends










Submit