Boris, Nick Clegg and George Galloway - strange people to mention in the same breath? Or maybe not. All of them have traded on British frustration with the status quo and the existing establishment. 'Cleggmania', which did not even survive to the election, was based on the desire for something new and untainted. Galloway won his elections due to frustration with post-Blair mainstream Labour leadership. Boris, too, reflects a desire for something different and more straightforward. Ironically, all of these people are probably even less straightforward, and more pandering, manipulative and weathercock-ish, than the average politician.
At present, Boris can play to both sides: as Mayor of London, he has been on the whole to the left of the average current Tory, as this is the only way that a Tory can be elected in London; simultaneously, he has been playing for the support of the Tory Right who are frustrated with Cameron and his supposed concessions to the LibDems. But he cannot do both forever. Sooner or later, he will be be forced to choose between the Nadine Dorries Right and apolitical or swing-vote Londoners, or his failure to choose will become clear - and his popularity will go down.
Yes, yes, that awful word rings in my ear: 'Romney'. Replace the word 'Boris' with 'Mitt' and 'London' with 'Massachusetts', and much of the last paragraph would remain applicable. And there is still a chance that Romney will get to be president, though I bloody hope not. But I think it's a bit different: Romney was never able to trade like Boris on being something new and straightforward and personally lovable and out of 'politics as usual'. I think that once Boris has to deal with the realities of trying to become a party leader, much of this will collapse. Who knows - I didn't think he'd be Mayor of London either - but I think he will not make it to be a successful party leader or Prime Minister.
Clegg and Galloway both ended up ruining their own political parties - let's hope that Boris might do the same to his!!!
But more generally one does worry about celebrity-worship and the cult of Personality rather than even real personality, and what this is doing to our electoral system. In 1945 the British were faced with a crucial choice between a heroic, charismatic individual who had led his country to military victory, and a taciturn, not specially charismatic individual who just happened to be the best person for the purpose of peacetime leadership at that time. The fact that our grandparents chose Attlee over Churchill made a huge difference to the future of this country. Would Britain make the same choice now? I fear not. Actually many probably wouldn't choose Churchill either nowadays: too old and not handsome enough. Some good-looking youngish twit might have been faced with the task of defeating Hitler, and the question of postwar reforms might never even have arisen, so to speak.....
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