I am disappointed in Boris Johnson. Already.
What was his first act as Mayor of London? To ban alcohol on all the city’s buses and trains, that’s what. At a stroke he has done for my chances of ever reviving a career down there. How anyone can consider commuting without a stiff drink defeats me. I have enough trouble with the 1135 Minsterley Motors service from Shrewsbury to The Bog via Snailbeach.
Here at the New Statesman we have long taken an interest in Boris’s career, because he used to edit the Spectator. There exists between the two magazines what may fairly be called a spirit of friendly rivalry - much as existed between the Montagues and Capulets or the Krays twins and the Richardson Torture Gang.
After all, we do compete for space on the same shelves. Which is why (I can exclusively reveal) a crack team of merchandisers is employed to tour the country‘s newsagents slipping the Spectator behind the New Statesman. I was myself thrown out of W. H. Smith’s once after being caught setting fire to a stack of the right-wing rags.
And here in Shropshire we still talk of Boris Johnson’s first wedding. It took place in the north of the county at West Felton and a hilarious time was had by all. Darius Guppy (Eton, Magdalen College, Oxford, and Wormwood Scrubs) arrived from Hatton Garden with the rings, only for the groom to lose his at once.
Then Boris arrived for the ceremony without suitable clothing, so he had to get married in John Biffen’s trousers. Though, to be fair, John Biffen was not wearing them at the time.
In fact the whole day was a scream. Unless, I suspect, you were Boris’s bride.
I blame Boris’s ancestry. Not his great grandfather Ali Kemal: whatever his failings as Turkey’s minister of the interior, he did not deserve to be torn apart by the mob in the square at Izmit.
Nor do I blame Ali Kemal’s mother who, the more fanciful accounts maintain, was born a Circassian slave. (A landowner over Leominster way tried using Circassians. He told me he found them unreliable and that the tax authorities were not sympathetic.)
No, I blame Boris’s father. As a young man Stanley Johnson was employed by one of the Rockefellers to research the problem of world overpopulation. While doing so he fathered six children. Is it any wonder his eldest son grew up confused?
The biographers say that the Johnson brood would hold contests to see who had the blondest hair - that hair was certainly something they owed to far Circassia. It being the 1970s, those children - boys as well as girls - wore their hair long. The worrying thing is that Stanley’s hair was the longest and blondest of all. Viewed en masse, the Johnsons resembled the Midwich Cuckoos run to seed.
As he has evicted the most famous newt fancier since Gussie Fink-Nottle from City Hall, it is appropriate that Boris Johnson should so often be compared to a character from P. G. Wodehouse. But which one?
His second announcement was that he would look at setting up 100 Saturday "Respect" schools. Bankrolled by a new fund drawn from super-rich City donors, these establishments would employ a "magnificently untrendy bootcamp style of discipline". Children, the press enthusiastically reported, would be made to march and learn manners.
If Boris does resemble a Wodehouse character, it may turn out to be Roderick Spode, eighth Earl of Sidcup, the leader of the Black Shorts.