Friday, June 06, 2008

House Points: Set Boris free

One advantage of blogging is that publshing is instantaneous. That is not true of weekly journalism.

When I wrote this column for Liberal Democrat News on Tuesday evening it was true that no one had heard from Boris for ages. Since then he has resigned his Commons seat and been all over the newspapers.

Where's Boris?

Has anyone seen Boris Johnson recently? Fears are growing that he is being held against his will by an armed coalition of policy wonks, Cameroons and Tory spin doctors.

Look at the decisions being announced in his name. Boris was elected Mayor of London largely because he was seen as a Dangerous Politician for Boys. No more namby pamby, milk-and-water, pale pink policies for him. Socialism, Liberalism, Feminism, Multiculturalism, Ismism…

He would sweep them all away in favour of straight talking, grazed knees and common sense – or what passes for common sense among Old Etonians, Spectator readers and the other exotics with whom he used to surround himself.

But what have we seen? First alcohol was banned on public transport. Then we were told there would be no statue of Sir Keith Park in Trafalgar Square.

Sir Keith was a hero of the Battle of Britain. Shortly before the London election, Boris signed a Commons motion calling for a permanent statue of him to erected on the square‘s vacant fourth plinth.

Last week a written answer put out in his name said "complex planning issues would make it difficult to secure this location on an ongoing basis". Instead it will continue to be a temporary home for artworks. The next will be chosen from a shortlist including a Tracey Emin sculpture, a burned-out car from Iraq and a plan to allow people to stand on the plinth for an hour at a time.

You can’t get much more namby pamby, milk-and-water or pale pink than that.

It is instructive to compare Boris with Ken Livingstone. They have more in common than you might expect. Ken won the first Mayoral contest because, like Boris this time, he was disapproved of by dull orthodoxy. Voting for him was a way of putting two fingers up to authority.

But while Boris is being hustled out of Westminster with indecent haste, Ken - never a great "House of Commons man" - enjoyed his best period there after he became Mayor. He was a respected contributor to debates from the furthermost back bench.

Whatever you think of Boris’s politics, he deserves better than his current plight. If you know where he is being held, please tell the police.

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