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 37.

    Being booed at the Olympics, well that's the British way! Got off very lightly. Have they seen the state of this country! There is a legacy outwith sports that has consigned a generation to hell! Meanwhile local gov't is cutting back on sports provision all over GB!, Go on Boris become PM, the country deservesyou twit! Have I got News for you team will

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    BJ's an unashamed populist - sniping from the sidelines & flouncing off with an inflated air of self importance over a matter which really is not the most pressing problem at the moment. The fact that he has chosen this issue to make a stand on rather than any of the other contentious reforms shows him for the half wit he is.

    He is totally unsuited to the top job - the press would crucify him

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Olympics show how tory disunited kingdom will operate ...

    Handful of tory chums - Coe etc - earn near double what the PM gets. Whether they pay income tax .. not confirmed.

    Huge private companies get multi-million pound contracts but don't deliver. Public sector picks up the pieces.

    Ordinary businesses see incomes fall. Ordinary people have to work for free.

    Welcome to tory britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    It is such a shame that people who run and are destined to run our country are selfish egotistical people motivated by power and attention.

    I would much rather the country's best brains make the decisions which affect us all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Boris's appeal is essentially an engaging directness coupled with a sense of humour that sounds like common sense to many. This approach propelled him to victory despite the background political landscape. Whether his appeal could ever work at a national scale with a more challenging brief is doubtful, but compared to national politicians of all parties he is a breath of fresh air.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Nick-yr pontificating about the tory party and Boris is the most irrelevant part of this blog. Surely the question to ask one day on from the end of this great olympian summer is whether this government is up to nation building and improving the lot of its citizens instead of just its rich ones. On 2 counts they fail-cutting of disability benefits and axing of school playing fields. Legacy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.


    Boris 'affects' different line: 'of The People'?

    "Can't afford equality! Standard of living then too low!"

    Though 'we can afford' heights of advantage for some
    (and for their spouses, children, hangers-on, think-tanks)

    Necessarily disadvantaging all others 'in the market'

    Inescapably 'corrupting' all of 'our' decision-making

    Unfunny with no limit: infantilism, war, self-extinction?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    How about the BBC enter the 21st century where women's sports are concerned - as one Olympic legacy.

    Very poor coverage of all women's sport on BBC - Why the blatant discrimination?

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Doesn't bear thinking about - he's self-absorbed and utterly vacuous.

    Not a single political achievement of any substance to his name. There's nothing there bar calculated personal PR / branding.

    Boris Johnson is a buffoon pretending to be a serious politician pretending to be a buffoon. You have to be borderline brain-dead to even contemplate him as tory leader and possible Prime Minister.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.


    Draconian? Half of one percent, draconian? Dont be such a drama queen,you wouldnt know draconian if it sneaked under your middle class duvet and bit you on the kiester.

    To everyone else, this is what happens when your mainstream politicians try to be everything to everyone and fail. People start to look at alternatives thatthey wouldnt ordinarily consider. Write Boris off at your peril.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    9. James - great idea - lets expand the public sector, above inflation pay increases every year and final salary scheme pensions at 45. Whilst we are at it lets increase the scope and nature of the benefits system to at least double what it is now. It will be fine we can tax the rich to pay for it and if it falls a bit short we can borrow the difference - not very original though eh ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The only people who think Boris is leadership material are the press.

    I do however hope he does get the job at some stage as it will be another nail in the coffin of party politics as we now know it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    so you knew him at oxford did you know him when he was working as a hack for the Telegraph and he disclosed the address of that journalist who got beaten up by another of you old school chums who went to prison for it of course he didnt mean to divulge information which would have led to the serious assault of your fellow journalist Boris is a friendly bumbling chap

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    That Boris,who is widely viewed as a clown (whatever the actual case may be),and others such as Jeremy-petrolhead-Clarkson,are actually mooted as PM posibilities just shows how low the expectations people have for politicians.Someone with leadership?Intelligence?Decency,honesty and morals?In touch with the people,but also knows what the really important issues are?We hope for best but expect worst

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Boris's legacy to the Olympics may turn out to be the same as Eddie The Eagle's..... who I think is now advertising eyesight enhancement products...

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    I thought the Opportunity Knocks Boo-ometer very amusing and some would say very telling! If 80000 people are so mind to do they can give a very public raspberry to our totally vacuous politicians. Boris has the common touch. May, Hunt & Osborne are just touched!

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Anyone but DavSham

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Boris is an old school Tory, like Ted Heath

    Maggie Thatchers pit bull terriers will have it in for him now

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Does Mayor Boris really manage of a City of 8 million while flitting around like a Mr Pickwick? Well he doesn't. Major agencies TfL and MP run themselves. London Boroughs run much else. Two well paid unelected officers keep the show going and are really "the Mayor'. Lots of politicians as deputy mayors are paid for nothing at all. Boris is a blue 'brand': 'MAYOR OF LONDON' just a gassy beer!


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