Boris Johnson – the darling of the Conservative Party Conference
No, Cranmer wishes to talk of the Conference darling.
It used to be Michael Heseltine, of course. The Party faithful would pack Blackpool’s Winter Gardens hours in advance of his appearance, and year after year he delivered a virtuoso performance of some of the most memorable conference lines and dramaturgy, with his blond mop wafting to every upward inflection. And year after year he would earn a rapturous standing ovation: he was widely perceived as a rival and potential successor to Margaret Thatcher.
There has really been no-one since. There have been and are orators, but none with flair and charisma: there has been charisma, but not with intellect and vision.
Boris Johnson’s conference speech marked the restoration of the darling species: he not only exuded panache, he held firm to core Conservative principles. He came up to the podium to the theme of EastEnders – the soap opera in which the Mayor played a cameo role last week – but he left to real-life adulation and heartfelt appreciation. He had been cast in a mere supporting walk-on role, but he turned the spear-carrier into a protagonist.
There must be something about blond mops.
Boris Johnson is too big to be hemmed in – either at a Party conference or at City Hall.
And he shows himself to be consistently in tune with Conservative heartlands. He wants to abolish the planned 50p tax rate; he wants a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty; he wants to see the return of grammar schools; he seeks to heal the banker lepers of their pariah status. He is seen to do more and care more about such issues than the Party leadership.
And his interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight (fast-forward to 16.30) is political theatre of the highest order. There is nothing tedious, mundane or scripted about Boris: he is authentic and original – ‘a toenail in the body politic’. At one point, he is so exasperated by the inane level of questioning and the depths which Newsnight has plumbed that he addresses the camera directly. And he declares to the watching millions: "David Cameron is a first rate chap, a very good guy. He will deliver a fantastic, committed and determined Conservative government and give this country the new leadership that it is crying out for after a decade of unrepentant, unbelievable Labour government. So go on out there and vote for him in May. That is my strong advice."
What politician other than the Prime Minister has ever been invited by the BBC to address the nation directly?