When a beast as ugly as Boris Johnson writes to offer advice ‘in a spirit of strict impartiality’, then you know he is taking the mischievous mickey. So it was today that London’s Mayor wrote a piece in the Telegraph suggesting that post-Brown Labour should eschew the Miliband option in favour of Lord Mandelson.
Bo knows only too well that Mandy even trying for the job would be both constitutionally dodgy and (for a left-leaning Party) silly beyond belief. One can see the headlines now: ‘Labour follows unelected Brown with unelected Mandelson’ (Daily Telegraph) and ‘Is this the most unelected Party in Britain?’ (Daily Mail).
I’ve met Mr Johnson and he is both searingly bright and very affable. But he also has a low animal cunning I don’t like, with a nasty set of claws when cornered. And if you’re wondering who that pen-portrait brings to mind, it is none other than his predecessor as London mayor, Ken Livingstone.
In the flesh, Ken is about as cuddly as a hedgehog, but he is a lot more careful about how he crosses the road. Like Boris, he is an instinctive chamelion of a politician, with the same charm before a camera or audience as his conqueror. But on the backstairs or in the smoke-filled room, he is a ruthless anti-democrat – and this is yet another feature both men share.
It is a sign of their genius that, if I express this view about Boris among Lefties (and about Ken at the Monday Club), the usual response I get is the guffaw and smile, followed by “Oh not at all, I think you’re quite wrong there.” The first rule of every ancient Chinese general was ‘Know your enemy – and take care he doesn’t know you’.
Livingstone was on The Daily Politics today, a show that usually demonstrates little more than Andrew Neill’s unique ability to have awful continuity ideas and flashes of superb insight in the same sixty-second period. Since the election got under way, however, old Brillo has come into his own, expressing the nation’s ennui with shifty politicos – and laying into them with a cricket bat at every opportunity.
Ken charmed the arse off Iain Duncan-Smith, smiled benignly, and played a sort of working-class version of that other dangerous man, Tony Benn. He made Neill laugh, he swapped election predictions amiably and – cleverest of all – seemed quick to laugh at himself. It was just like watching Boris on Have I got News for You.
Off-camera, they’re both equally nasty. And I think perhaps the thing they share most is an utter contempt for ordinary people with nice manners and good sense. Having met dozens of Borikens over the years, I can vouch for the fact that (if only they could find a hatred in common) a coalition of Stalinists and aristocrats could rule the World. Things would be far more efficient, standards would be the highest in the galaxy, science would advance at an exponential rate – and for 98% of the population, life would be a nightmare of robotic serfdom.
These two politicians are central to an understanding of my thesis about what’s wrong in Britain. The electorate tend to vote for the Johnsons and Livingstones in their droves. This is because the voters lack both civic understanding and discernment about people’s behaviour. Ironically, in order to avoid slipping into authoritarian oligarchy, I truly believe we need to change our definition of suffrage. It needs some quality criteria adding to it – because forty years of education churning out naive clothes horses and gullible baby-machines has resulted in the voters lacking the skills with which to tell a silk purse from a sow’s ear.
The bourgeois Left like Peter Hain will go on irrelevantly about the BNP because it suits their book to have bogeymen. Griffin’s Gargoyles are a sad joke – lots of silly boys playing at Sturm Abteilung, with some extremely honest and well-meaning people giving their support due to the lack of an alternative. But if you’re really looking for the next dictator, believe me – the answer lies within.