Magazine article The Spectator

Got the Opposition on Toast

Magazine article The Spectator

Got the Opposition on Toast

Article excerpt

CAMPAIGN 2001 by Nicholas Jones Politico s, 09.99, pp. 340, ISBN 1902301781 FRIENDS, VOTERS,

COUNTRYMEN by Boris Johnson HarperCollins, 14.99, pp. 288, ISBN 0007119135

The election of 2001 will not be recalled as one of the high points of the British democratic process. It was notable mainly for producing the lowest voter turnout in modern history. These two books, therefore, do it a big favour.

The first is by Nicholas Jones, the BBC political correspondent, who, I gather, is periodically thumped by Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's personal bagpiper. Campbell is going to like him even less after he reads this book, from which he emerges less as the Svengali of this government than its Diaghilev, able `to enunciate government policy with greater clarity than Tony Blair'.

Jones's diary starts before the treacly Labour campaign launch in front of south London schoolchildren and ends well after the bitterness of Peter Mandelson's victory speech in Hartlepool. This was because the election was delayed, due to the government's inability to control the foot-andmouth outbreak. (This was in the dark days before it decided it could deliver world peace.) From his ringside seat, Jones reintroduces us to such stars as Phoenix, the Mysteriously Preserved Calf; Shaun Woodward and his Magically Vanishing Butler; Sharron Storer, the Astonishing Talking Woman Who Silenced the Prime Minister; and Craig Evans, the Man With the Mullet, whose punch-up with John Prescott was the visual highlight of the campaign. It is an intelligent and entertaining read with an awfully bad title.

Friends, Voters, Countrymen has the subtitle `Jottings on the Stump', which gives the impression that it is the confessions of an amputee. But no - Cripes! Gadzooks! as the author would say - it turns out to be the diary of a cove called Boris standing for election as MP for Henley-on-Thames.

This is the very same Boris - the man who writes the smallest cheques in weekly journalism - who edits this magazine. In this book he discloses all sorts of top-level insights into the mysteries of our democracy.

We learn of his firm belief in sandwiches in the pub at lunchtime. We read his musings on why people slow down to 70 on the M40 when there's a police car about. We discover the importance of being nice about babies. We even find out who his tailor is (Boris appears ignorant of the fact that the man is clearly either an impostor or playing some practical joke.)

We hear plenty of what various Tory voters have to say about everything from the European Union to teenage vandalism. …

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