Boris and the Olympic legacy made flesh

David Cameron and Boris Johnson at the Olympics David Cameron and Boris Johnson at the Olympics

For one last time the crowds will cheer, Union Jacks will wave, gold medals will be flourished. Today the country will take one last gulp of Olympic spirit.

So potent has it proved that the political games, which begin as London 2012 ends, will see endless attempts to prove that it all goes to show how right the speaker is about the need (delete where applicable) for public investment; to pick winners; to promote competition; to focus on what the disabled can do rather than what they can't; to oppose cuts; to rediscover our pride as a nation... etc.

Today at their annual congress the TUC's general secretary took the first step on a path every political leader, except perhaps Alex Salmond, is sure to follow.

There will be endless promises to ensure that there is a positive legacy of London 2012, that we are more sporting as a nation, more inclusive and that the Olympic Park revives east London and does not become a white elephant.

However, I put it to you, ladies and gentlemen, that we will see one part of the Olympic legacy made flesh on display today on London's streets.

It is none other than the man who once said that his chances of being prime minister were "about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars or being reincarnated as an olive". He is the Tory politician who is cheered, not booed, by Olympic crowds*. He is the man who is laughed with and not at when he dangles helplessly from a zip wire.

Yes, Boris - who along with Seb has been the non-sporting face of the Games - has, thanks to the Olympics, become not just that cheeky chap who brings a smile to your face, but the Conservative who makes his party's activists' hearts race and pulses quicken, who says the things they want to hear and who is not sullied by coalition.

So it is that Tory backbenchers put two and two together and made five when they figured that if the government proceeded with a third runway before the election (they've said they won't) then Zac Goldsmith will hand his seat (which is far from a safe Tory constituency) to Boris (who'd be accused of breaking his promise to complete a full term as mayor) who could then challenge Cameron for the Tory leadership (which would destroy his brand as someone who is "unlike all those other scheming, calculating, self-interested politicians".)

Boris and Zac did, we now know, talk about the idea but only, it's claimed, to laugh about it. I wonder.

The history of Boris is that he has been underestimated, not least by me. I knew him at Oxford where I never thought for a minute that he'd be a politician.

I broke the story that he was running to be mayor but didn't take it at all seriously, so only mentioned it in passing on my blog. I sat with one very senior Tory who discussed whether "to let Boris run" (little did they know). I dismissed the talk of him one day leading his party as fanciful.

Well, not any more. Boris now takes on the role once played by Michael Heseltine to Margaret Thatcher, Michael Portillo to John Major or Gordon Brown to Tony Blair.

He is now the prince over the water whether he, and whether his old school friend Dave, likes it or not. Everything he says and does from his power base (which is appropriately down river from Westminster and on the other bank of the Thames) will be seen through the prism of his scarcely-concealed political ambition.

His decision to condemn the prime minister's reshuffle and promise to fight plans for the expansion of Heathrow have guaranteed that.

The story of the next couple of years in Tory politics will be defined, in part, by how he and the prime minister - who may appear together today to celebrate the Games - learn to live together.

* Jeremy Hunt joined Theresa May and George Osborne in being booed at the Paralympics last week.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    "The history of Boris is that he has been underestimated, not least by me. I knew him at Oxford where I never thought for a minute that he'd be a politician. "


    Can't fault it. He's not. He's a tory.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    It appears there are, even now, many who are prepared to understimate Boris Johnson

    I am not a fan of him myself, but how can you even hint at him not being electable as PM, when he has been democratically elected as mayor of one of the largest cities in the western world? I do not expect him to be PM one day. I do expect him to be leader of the Conservative Party ion the not too distant future

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I would like to hope for Boris becoming leader of Tories, believing that it would make the party unelectable - trouble is people do believe the vacuous sound-bites and he might actually get in - what a terrifying thought !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    @11. There are still people who are not stupid enough to want vote for any of them.

    However, that does tend to leave the decision of the next parliament in the hands of the 'stupid'.

    Or the 'red top media' as they are more commonly known.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    PM Johnson ROFL.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Draconian cuts to...a well honed lean effective public sector? Or a bloated whale of epic proportions? If you starting point is a unwieldy inefficient service blown up to unmanagbale size by G.Brown buying votes with non-jobs and fraud ridden benefits, well, draconian may be what we need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Please - people wouldn't be stupid enough to vote the Tory's in again and especially the one trick pony called Boris! Sooner this mob get voted out the better they are wrecking everything they touch!

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Up2Snuff - Whoever leads the Conservatives - Boris or not - if they win the next election they will most certainly "impose" their policies on the country.

    That would be because they had been elected to do just that, wouldn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Isn't it great to see old Etonians like Boris and Dave slapping each other on the back for hosting the games just as they are about to announce the most draconian cuts to the public sector ever. (80% yet to be implemented)

    As memories of the games fade, many Paralympians will face real hardship as their support is removed and their benefits slashed to make way for tax cuts for millionaires.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Boris's political success to date has been largely based on the fact that he turns out not to be the bumbling buffoon that we originally thought. What a surprise! Good old Boris can actually do the job without messing it up completely!

    Will it be so easy now that we expect so much more from him?

    A General Election with Boris and Seb in charge of the blue team would be fascinating right now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    It's amazing to think that Boris Johnson is now one of the most powerful people with in the Conservative party. His victory in London was remarkable given the strength of Labour in the polls - and it can't have gone unnoticed that taking London seats is vital for a Tory win in 2015.

    Whether Boris could deal with the level of scrutiny that comes with being PM is another matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    As the Tories are almost a Party of as many parts as the LibDems, it will be vital that any new leader can bring real unity together with a set of voter requested policies.

    Can Boris really unite the Conservatives AND get them to resist imposing their (or his?) policies on the country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Boris has shown exactly what the all politicians have known to be true: It is much easier to be vocal in opposing those in power when you don't have to make the unpopular decisions.

    It is far easier to release sound bites which show some notion of 'intent' when you don't have to back it up.

    Sadly 'sound bites' are precisely what 90% of electorate seem to use when deciding if / who to vote for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Boris for PM - yep, gets my vote - but with one proviso..
    That Seb Coe and his Olympics team are brought in to run EVERYTHING....

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Boris will turn out not as nice as he seems. The bumbling fool persona has been used by politicians of the extreme right before. Lets analyse what he believes and what he plans to do as well as his record rather than look at his carefully choreographed antics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    When Boris uttered some flippant comment about Prince Harry's predicament and conitnued to berate the Government over Heathrow he showed the nature of the person he is: a good entertainer and a decent Mayor (probably) but that's just about it. He lacks - on a tragic scale - any kind of professional demeanour. By the same token, those who support him show-up who they are too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Boris....likable, refreshingly up front and honest as well as being generally a "nice bloke"....but as a potential political Leader or PM?


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