HUER'S CALL BY MIKE SAGAR-FENTON: Not-so-bumbling Boris hides his intentions in plain sight
I didn't realise there was such a thing as a Margaret Thatcher Lecture. It's something I seem to have been giving for the last thirty years, though I haven't yet had the call to the Centre For Policy Studies to share my views. But Boris has, and anyone with any lingering doubts whether he's planning to shove aside George Osborne's deluded ambitions and waltz into No 10 when he fancies should invest half an hour in reading his recent speech in full. No-one can accuse him of having a hidden agenda.
Although in a way he has. People warm to Boris – they call him Boris, not Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, 49, born in New York, educated at Eton and Balliol, journalist, MP and London Mayor. We're not used to bright and witty politicians with a sense of fun and a delivery which sounds as if they're making it up as they go along. His jovial demeanour and obvious clubability makes him popular with men while his undoubted if fatal sex appeal adds spice to the message for many women – or at least at a distance. Boris is a Gemini, and whether you believe in that stuff or not he has two distinct and contradictory sides. One is the gleeful bluffer ad-libbing his way through life with instinctive aplomb and a strong sense of the ridiculous. The other is the person memorably described by Eddie Mair (to his face) as "A nasty piece of work".
Looking at him joshing his self-deprecating way through any given situation it's hard to discern that character, though anyone who suffered the rigours of Public School can remember being at the mercy of prefects like Boris, popular laughing-boys whose sense of humour included a generous slice of sadistic pleasure in the discomfort of the younger and weaker. He proposes hard academic competition as a way of driving up educational standards, helped by the "Hedge-Fund kings ... the driving force behind Academy Schools", a Darwinian theme which permeates his whole speech. It must have made Nigel Farage howl into his beer, since Boris, being a sanctified National Treasure, can go without restraint or sanction where Mr Farage, who comes across more as a pub bore, can only dream. "Of the 193 present members of the UN," Boris bombastically began, "we have conquered or at least invaded 171." (By "we" one assumes he means the British, not his German or Turkish ancestors.) Nice start.
The headline reports on his speech concentrated on his reliance on IQ tests as a way of dividing up nature's winners and losers, predestined before birth by their genetic background. Most thoughtful observers have admitted that IQ tests are no more than a splendid way of assessing who's good at passing IQ Tests, a formula devised by the mindset of Teutonic European males and baffling to many more holistic and instinctive forms of intelligence. Thus the 11-plus dumped over the side so many clever and creative kids who were no good at them. But Boris is heavily into genetics. He suggests that the decline in social mobility could be blamed on "The massive expansion of the female population in Higher Education", leading to more relationships being formed between intelligent couples, something he describes as "Assortive Mating". Yes, really. He believes "Some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy ... a valuable spur to economic activity." He lauds Thatcher's championing of the City, creating "A buccaneering environment where there was no shame – quite the reverse – in getting rich," possibly forgetting what the original buccaneers were famous for or how they came by their riches. He admires the way Thatcher "Unleashed the animal spirits of Essex men and women, who ... restored London to its Victorian eminence as financial capital of the world." There are some in Shanghai, Delhi and New York who might think differently. But the bible according to Boris credits Mrs Thatcher for laying "the foundations of the prosperity the City enjoys today" – thanks, the what? Like her he believes the parable of the Good Samaritan was about cash rather than Jesus' intention, which was to illustrate the meaning of neighbourliness.
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Another biblical phrase comes to mind, that of King Rehoboam: "My father chastised you with whips, but I shall chastise you with scorpions."
Boris is no joke. Thatcher's forceful vision emerged from a raw but mean-minded intelligence. Boris is her true successor but has the cold controlling brain to make his fascist views real, and the charm to make them sound acceptable. Or at least until he takes power. Beware! Beware!