Magazine article The Spectator

Meet Boris Mark II

Magazine article The Spectator

Meet Boris Mark II

Article excerpt

His jokes are back - but under much tighter control

The make-up lady at the BBC's Millbank studio in Westminster has noticed a change in Boris Johnson's look. 'His hair is much smarter now,' she told me as she slapped anti-shine talc on my pate for the Daily Politics show. 'But he still messes it up a bit after I've combed it.'

Boris Mark II has entered the fray. As his conference speech this week showed, he's still making the gags but they play second fiddle to his more serious aspirations -- as a successful Foreign Secretary and, ultimately, PM.

Like some rare species of blond cockroach, Boris survived the post-referendum nuclear fallout while the other Bullingdon boys and the Notting Hill Set were wiped off the face of the earth.

Even though he fought for Brexit, he was astonished at the aftermath -- just look at his face, and Michael Gove's, in that press conference on 24 June after David Cameron resigned. Boris -- normally so good at hiding his feelings beneath a thousand onion skins -- was shell-shocked.

Insiders say he was amazed to be offered the Foreign Secretary's job. His future had seemed to offer little more than a backbencher's life, well-padded with the money from his Telegraph column, his books and a few celeb outings. He was destined to become little more than an upmarket Ed Balls, dismally touring the TV studios, living off the crumbs of yesteryear's fame.

For some time after he started the job in July, he went into comic purdah as he jettisoned the clown costume. Craig Brown warned that 'Boris's chosen destiny is to become a sort of blond Jack Straw, flying all over the world to read boring speeches to bored audiences. Any possibility of offence or excitement will have been expertly excised, leaving nothing but a prolonged drone of unimpeachable waffle.'

That was the case for a few months -- a bit of a worry for someone like me, trying to add more wit and wisdom to an updated collection of Boris's greatest hits. Would I have to just add in a few extra blank pages to cover his post-referendum life? Thank God, his conference speech showed funny Boris has taken over once again from shocked Boris.

Welcome back the lovely P.G. Wodehouse similes: asking people if they were in favour of democracy is 'like asking Maria von Trapp whether she was in favour of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens'. …

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