Melanie Phillips

4 October 2011

Pure political Viagra

Published in: Daily Mail

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Just heard Boris at the Tory party conference in Manchester display what appears to be wholly absent from anyone else on the platform at this so far lacklustre event – the wow factor.  How they love him here. Hundreds of people streamed into the hall to hear what they expected to be the event of the day. They gave him a standing ovation when he arrived and when he left; when he spoke they lapped up every word, laughing and applauding in equal measure.

The Prime Minister was in the audience. Presumably it was not lost on him that this was a double electioneering address – for a second term as Mayor, but also for David Cameron’s own job.

You can see why the grass-roots love Boris. It’s not just that he is so entertaining. He also goes straight for what they most want to hear, these grass-roots Tories. No pandering to political correctness for Boris. It was all about crime and getting to grips with the root causes of the summer riots.  It was about more police on the streets – the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe’s ‘Capone principle’ (aka Bill Bratton’s ‘broken windows’ strategy) in dealing with low-level infractions in order to send the message that crime just would not be tolerated.

They cheered when Boris said that anyone who swore at the police could expect to be arrested. They laughed and applauded when he saluted the ‘broom brigade of Clapham’ which stood up to the rioters. They clapped again when he boasted of having banned alcohol ‘from day one' on the London Tube and made it the safest underground system in the whole of Europe.

When you think how the traditional Tory conference message of uncompromising treatment of crime and criminals used to be regarded as pandering to the blue-rinsed knuckle-draggers of the shires – the ‘nasty party’ image that the Cameroons have invested everything in destroying --  you realise the extent of Boris’s achievement.

Then he was into all the positives that he was delivering -- 4232 desk jobs saved from Transport for London, the Victoria Line running three miles per hour faster, wheels for new Tube rolling stock being manufactured in Manchester – ‘you supply the wheels, we supply the locomotive of the UK’. And this comically barnstorming list delivered with witticisms acknowledging such transparent electioneering – thus managing to deprecate himself as a politician, perhaps the most potent political skill of all in dealing with today’s terminally disillusioned voters.

Then the riff that touched his audience in its heart when he said:

‘The future of the world lies in cities... But people yearn for the village, for the Eden from which we have been excluded. So everything we do in City Hall is about putting the village back into the city’.

And finally the celebration of the Olympic village, providing work for the towns around the country producing the materials going into its creation, even (absurdly) down to English rhubarb:

‘The Velodrome is rubbed with English rhubarb! So there’s a job for growers and rubbers of English rhubarb in the Olympic park!’

There are certain things that deeply alarm me about Boris’s views and his approach to life, which are for another discussion. Suffice it to say here that the core of his appeal is how he effortlessly conveys infectious joy, an infinitely can-do approach -- above all an optimism about the future not just of London but of the UK. For at least five minutes until reality kicks in, he makes people feel so much better.

Pure political Viagra.

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

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Books

  • The World Turned Upside Down
  • Londonistan
  • The Ascent of Woman
  • America's Social Revolution

Contact Melanie

Melanie Phillips
Daily Mail
Northcliffe House
2 Derry Street
London W8 5TT

Contact Melanie