To the American lady who asked, yes, we do have television in Scotland. Angus the postie has one in his living room and invites the rest of the village round once a week to watch Strictly over porridge and bannocks. We sometimes have to thump the set a few times, and when it’s blowing a gale wee Jamie has to shin up the drainpipe and hug the dish, but we usually arrive at a tolerable black and white picture.
Occasionally, when Angus is feeling generous because he’s come across a postal order in the mail, he passes round the Famous Grouse and conversations break out. If it doesn’t all deteriorate into a big punch-up, the TV often stays on until the evening news, and we’re treated to a grainy glimpse of events in the small south eastern enclave where what happens actually matters a damn. It’s here that, surprisingly often, a white-crested buffoon comes galumphing across the screen, typically on a bike creaking under his weight, invariably trailing in his wake the debris of another public relations disaster. Why, look, it’s Boris.
Boris. Choreography by Nellie the Elephant, witticisms by Cicero, personality by Teflon, coiffure by Salon Ken Dodd. There aren’t many political figures who can be almost universally identified simply by a given name. “Maggie” can, likewise her idol whom she referred to as “Winston” (but notice the clue I had to shoe-horn in), then maybe there’s “Bibi” over in the Promised Land, and “Saddam” over in the Rogues’ Gallery. I’m sorry, Mr Blair, “Sleazebag” doesn’t count. It’s a perfect fit, but you have too many competitors.
Boris. He actually has three given names, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel. “Alexander” means “protector of men”, “Boris” means “warrior” and “de Pfeffel” means “extremely bad choice of letters in Countdown”. He’s emerged from sundry legitimate and clandestine couplings over the centuries as an exotic mixture of Turkish, American, German, Christian, Muslim, Jewish and what Irish commentators refer to as “gobshite”. This has enabled him to survive the standard Eton College process, where they wrench out your soul with massive forceps and upholster the cavity with a wad of superiority, and still have a great deal of his individuality intact. Now he’s a half-toff who plays whiff-whaff but appeals to riff-raff.
Boris. The blonde bombshell who once succeeded Michael Heseltine as MP for Henley-on-Thames and whose tub-thumping demagoguery now produces in Tory bosoms the frisson only Hezza could previously stir. At the Glasgow Empire, in its heyday, his rhetorical flourishes would have earned him some succinct travel advice wrapped around a brick. But at party conferences his speeches are the hottest ticket in town, with local entrepreneurs flogging oven gloves to queues of Conservatives stretching as far as the eye can tolerate.
What are his ambitions? Under the Tories’ unique equal opportunities scheme, being a clot has never been a barrier to attaining high office, and anyway that unruly mop clearly conceals the zinging about of more than a few neurons. Right now they may be busy composing iambic tetrameters in Ancient Greek, but it would be easy to redeploy them on greasy pole climbing strategies for bulky blokes.
BoJo’s no bozo, although he assiduously promotes that fictional impression. Climb all the way up to the attic of his well-appointed townhouse and I bet you’ll find his portrait hidden there, staring out at you with a face set with hard-jawed, flint-eyed ambition and perfectly groomed hair.
He is, after all, the only high-profile Tory in charge of something whom the electorate actually meant to put there. In 2012 the non-entity currently chairing his party, a “Grant Shapps”, claimed that Boris lacked many of the necessary skills to lead party or country, a judgment comparable to a chihuahua telling a giraffe it needs a stepladder. Sorry, Grant old bean, but Boris is well capable of putting your assertion to the test, especially since he has in his spin-doctoring corner Lynton Crosby, admittedly no more than the latest poor man’s Karl Rove to infest British political life, but nevertheless Australian and so militantly unacquainted with the art of losing.
To Scots, Boris is rollicking good fun to watch, but is he relevant? Of course, like other taxpayers in the “provinces”, we’re pouring money into the giant suction machine of which he’s the figurehead as it drains the lifeblood from the rest of the economy. But it’s nothing new to have our dosh siphoned into vanity infrastructure projects south of Watford while we patiently wait for life-threatening sections of the A9 to be upgraded to a dual carriageway.
From a Scottish referendum perspective, the slogan should clearly be “Vote No, Get Boris (Some Time In The Not-Too-Distant Future)”, but I know Better Together is opposed to scaremongering, so I won’t annoy them with that. Anyway, at the moment Boris doesn’t even have a seat in the Commons, although I’ll bet Lynton has a dirty-tricks file of filthy rumours about certain party colleagues who do.
Yet what if UKIP rips the Tories a new one in the European elections, or David Cameron is discovered in a stable, in a compromising position with Rebekah Brooks’ horse? Will Boris be prepared to allow the 2015 election to fall to Ed’s Charisma Bypass party, potentially exiling him to Boris Island until 2020? Or will he bin the Mayor’s job and throw down the leadership gauntlet faster than Kim Jong Un editing his Christmas list?
In the event of a Yes vote for Scotland, I’d certainly buy tickets for independence negotiations pitting Boris against the forensic skills of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon. If it’s No, I’d be less enthused about Boris becoming the charming but ruthless face of the next round of austerity. He may have been bumming on lately about his “I Heart Scotland” feelings, but the reality is that, when it came to it, he wouldn’t piss on us if we were on fire. That’s a great pity, because it would be fun watching him try, and getting his wobbly bits accidentally caught in the zip.
Not as much fun, however, as it would be going round to Angus’s cottage and watching Boris and Ann Widdecombe do Strictly.