Taking potshots at Boris

Will Boris Johnson be damaged by Matthew Parris’s withering attack on him?


Creeping ambition in a jester's cap: Boris woos the pink vote

Will Boris Johnson be damaged by Matthew Parris's withering attack on him? I doubt it. The Times columnist and former Tory MP certainly didn't pull his punches. Boris might be "a joke", he raged, but the idea of his leading the party certainly wasn't. "Incompetence is not funny A careless disregard for the truth is not funny. Advising old mates planning to beat someone up is not funny. Creeping ambition in a jester's cap is not funny. Vacuity posing as merriment, cynicism posing as savviness, a wink and a smile covering for betrayal these things are not funny."

So what prompted this angry attempt at political assassination? It's all down to the EU referendum, says Dominic Lawson in the Daily Mail, and, in particular, to Boris's attempt to woo the gay and lesbian vote for Brexit by making an appeal to them on an Out and Proud video. To Parris, this was insufferable hypocrisy: Boris might take a liberal line now, but he once supported Section 28, Mrs Thatcher's law (subsequently repealed) making it illegal for schools and councils to promote homosexuality.

Boris, however, wasn't the only Tory MP to change his mind about Section 28. (David Cameron did too.) And we should bear in mind, says Lawson, that Parris's partner and now husband,Julian Glover, used to be Cameron's chief speechwriter and that the rage against Boris in Number Ten "borders on the uncontrollable". Nonetheless, Boris will survive. Three years ago, he was subjected to a savage breakfast show grilling on BBC1 by Eddie Mair. Mair even asked, or told, the London mayor: "You're a nasty piece of work, aren't you?" Did this programme leave the mayor "reeling mangled", as The Guardian pronounced the next day? No it didn't. A YouGov poll shortly thereafter showed that Boris's standing had actually increased in the wake of Mair's attack.

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The truth about Boris is that he betrays people and, somehow, usually ends up being forgiven. Indeed, says Lawson,Boris once printed an article in The Spectator "accusing me of being some sort of MI6 agent". It was an outrageous claim, but Lawson, after venting his wrath, found himself being won round as Boris mumbled apologetically down the phone: "Oh, so sorry, Dommers, I didn't think you'd mind, it's all a bit James Bond, doesn't make you look bad at all, sorry old chap."

And by an odd piece of serendipity, there in The Mail on Sunday the day after Parris's attack was Petronella Wyatt, Boris's former mistress, writing affectionately about him and explaining why despite his "degree of duplicity", insecurity and desperate need to be loved "by the entire world" she remains close to him. "He is Wodehouse with tears," says Wyatt, veering between "ebullience and self-doubt, a happy-looking man for whom happiness can be precarious". She paints a picture of a loner with few domestic skills, who likes clowning about but dislikes parties "Why do you enjoy these things?" he said to her once after a book launch. "They're so tiring." The problem for Boris's enemies, as Wyatt confirms, is that people like him and will probably go on doing so, despite all the faults and betrayals and attacks by columnists.

Tabloid money... "Why shouldn't women footballers also get £100,000 a week?"

"Bowling along the A40... I spotted a patrol car... ahead," says Sarah Vine in the Daily Mail. "I eased off the accelerator, but too late. A few days later, the inevitable penalty charge dropped through the door. It's the first speeding fine I've had in years normally, I'm quite good at respecting the limit. But these days that's becoming increasingly hard, what with the endless roadworks and seemingly random speeding restrictions that pop up out of nowhere, just because some council official has decided we must all do 40 miles an hour in order for three men to stand around smoking... while a fourth... thinks about maybe digging a hole in the road... No wonder so many people suspect authorities of using motorists as cash cows to top up their coffers."

"When a South African tennis official said that women inthe sport didn't really deserve the same prize moneyas men, there was much wailing and gnashing ofteeth," says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun.

"Thingsgot even noisier when world number one NovakDjokovic said women should receive whatthey get now. But that men should have more. All ofthe female stars jumped up and down and said thatthey train just as hard as the men, and travel just asfar... So it's only right and proper that they getthe same wages. When the dust had finallysettled, the South African official had losthis job and Djokovic had been forced toissue a grovelling apology. But beforewe all move on to the next thing, I have asmall question. Should women footballplayers get the same wages as their malecounterparts?" And if not, why not? Theytrain just as hard. "So why should they alsonot get £100,000 a week?"