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.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    As the blog mentions the Olympic legacy - let's not forget the contribution of Tessa Jowell who is standing down from the shadow cabinet.

    She was part of a team across governments that helped deliver the games - only an opportunist would try and claim all the credit for themselves. The success of the games was down to a co-ordinated team effort.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    159's -ve score

    Apparently there are a few people who want bankers to keep their ill gotten gains!


  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Boris is no buffoon. He is highly intelligent and knows exactly what he is doing. Playing the buffoon and expecting the electorate to think him a likeable buffoon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.



    What do you get if you cross a blunderbuss and a lawn sprinkler?...

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    See what you get!

    Give a nice little corner cafe, & they mark you down!

    Perhaps it was your idea of giving credit creation to 'private hands'?

    'Keen pricing' not reserved for 'owners' of premises: rent just one of the costs of many very nice cafe businesses, 'quality & price' the stuff of all survival, advance, or not

    Owners or renters (from X, Y, Z, LA or 'state'), all mortal!

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    I know lots of people don't like Ken and Tony, but the organisation that delivered the Olympics was set up by them. The ball was set rolling by John Major with lottery funding. What this shows is that it has a taken 16 years to get it right and we are still not sure if the achievement is secure. If success takes that long quick fixes for NHS and education will not provide a stable future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.


    Pity is, insights to share, on how NOT to find ourselves, or wish each other, 'horribly excluded' - from ordinary decent free humanity

    The universe will always pose problems & suggest projects; and different 'roles' will fall to us: but leaders need not be cheats

    No society can truthfully guarantee 'everything for everybody', or sensibly promise 'freedom to exploit others'

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.


    Problem with 'democracy', or with shareable definition?

    Your 'more private' definition + types of subscriber?

    IF, despite all 'Tales from the Gulag', all others voted Equal Democracy - in apparent soundness of mind, clear understanding, & desire to get on with life in positivity rather than 'self-justifying paranoia' - would you 'join in', or seek to 'pull down the pillars'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    NR what about ED BALLS at the TUC today please ?

  • Comment number 168.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Yes, public vs private, interesting topic. How to strike the balance? I say 'balance' because, along with most people, I don't like the sound of either extreme.

    Like, every little cafe on every street corner owned by the state? No thank you. Where's the incentive then to offer keenly priced daily specials?

    Or (equally and oppositely absurd) the banking sector in private hands. I mean, c'mon!

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    How about if the government and politicians stopped telling lies and messing with our lives and paid their own bloody mortgages and all their other bills out of their tax-payer fund salary of a minimum of £66K.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    dumb and dumber who who is the thickest of the two/

  • Comment number 164.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    #162 "True if "choice" means freedom to breach Social Contract!"

    And what happens to people who don't want to live in your communist hellhole? A British Gulag?

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Justforsighs @160
    Just read again!

    "The fact"… "to give choice you have to accept inequality"

    True if "choice" means freedom to breach Social Contract!. Did you never read: to work, democracy must be "understood & agreed"?

    Only 'theoretically' would a society 'agreed upon democracy' think to destroy its own basis, live by casino, under Fear & Greed, as we now 'enjoy'

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.


    We might not like to 'confess', but against the threat of terrorism - after the Twin Towers - 'we' decided to float our economies on cheap credit

    We over-did it, thought we had gone Through The Looking Glass: and now 'we' - most of us - are paying for that

    Historical 'distortions' have context: no reason at all to discard never-tried Equal Democracy

    Let's educate & trust ourselves

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.


    Yep - heard that. Can't see the answer in your reply though. How will you deal with the fact that to give choice you have to accept inequality, and that to not give choice is undemocratic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.


    Libertarian Tories are most definitely NOT Anarchists although both hate the state. The latter also see private property as theft. The former will steal anything they can from the poor for themselves!

    Libertarianism(Tory) is profoundly to be derided and exposed.

    They have stolen enough already - Now they must return their ill-gotten banking gains or if not face the consequences!

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    "libertarian caricature"

    You confirm JfH's suspicion, elevating desire for pocket-money to "the core proposition"?

    Even to know 'the real debate' over 'more or less' for 'public or private' spending, we would need to enjoy democratic equality of stake, and we would need 'the context of the day', none begrudging a 'shared' effort to divert an approaching planetesimal...!



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