Monday, October 29, 2012

A Better Boris: Johnson's Prime Ministerial Showcase at the Conservative Party Conference

David Cameron's speech at the recent Conservative Party Conference was billed as the headlining act. After all, he is prime minister. And he did very well, boldly communicating his vision for the party, how to build on current successes - such as the establishment of independent schools, and - how to do better, including bold plans on Britain crime, terrorism and, of course, the still-stagnant economy.

But despite Cameron exceeding expectations at the podium, he was upstaged by a man who might one day take his place (though of course, he won't overtly admit this): Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Boris swept into Birmingham with a large entourage, his trademark blond mop tousled further by the autumnal breeze and his voluminous personality pulling in all those in the near vicinity. Buoyed by his starring role as cheermeister at the Olympics and Paralympics, the launch of his well-received book and, of course, a hard-fought win over nemesis Ken Livingstone in the mayoral election, Hurricane Boris blew into the conference centre threatening to destroy all in its path.

And yet, by the time he took the podium for the pre-speech teaser (as only Boris can do, at a welcome reception the night before the main event) he was atypically reserved, disciplined (aside for the odd imaginative meandering) and even follically presentable. He didn't do away with his Borisness - wit, irreverence, unnatural confidence - but managed to keep his exuberance in check enough to come across as a, gulp, statesman. The question was whether he could repeat the feat the following morning. And, much to the chagrin of the Cameroons who view him as a usurper and a loose cannon, he did.

The audience in the crowded hall laughed at his jokes not because they were obliged to, but because Boris is genuinely funny. They were inspired by his bold policy statements about Britain's future as "a creative, confident, can-do country" because he has vision, and doesn't worry about towing the party line. He instinctively knows what is important to this country, and can explain this in clear, jargon-free terms. Furthermore, Boris can simplify the principals of the party he represents as mayor: "I am a Conservative. I believe in a low tax, low regulation economy."

More so than any other current British politician, there is something distinctly Churchillian about Boris, though Winston's wit was less overt. Yes, the Mayor does on occasion go off tilting at windmills as Churchill did. And true, he is certainly not lacking in ego. But on the big things - including keeping the EU's greedy hands off the City of London's assets, the need to do better for the middle class ("the backbone of London"), and supporting entrepreneurship, Boris is quite correct. As Churchill's career proved, this is perhaps the defining assessment of any politician's body of work.

Much like the Churchill that Peter Clarke brilliantly portrays in his book, Mr. Churchill's Profession, Boris has made his living by his pen. And, as with Winston, he actually writes, or at least is a significant contributor to, his own speeches (or, in some cases, just speaks extemporaneously). Cameron cannot claim that, nor can his counterpart across the Atlantic, whose inauguration address was, for good or for ill, crafted by a 27-year-old in a Washington DC Starbucks. (Yes, blogging police, I've used this example before.) The reason that Boris's rhetoric resonates is because there is a consistency between his writing, his off-microphone conversation and his public addresses. In all settings, Boris is Boris, and people can either take him or leave him.

Click here to read the full story via The Huffington Post

No comments:

Post a Comment