Sunday, 18 May 2008

Bring Back Boris

The News of the World today has what purports to be an article by new Mayor of London Boris Johnson on the subject of knife crime.

It was plainly not written by Boris Johnson.

Here's a sample:


All over Britain, drug crime, knife attacks, violence, drunkenness and disorder are creating streets of fear where decent people fear to tread.

I intend to stop that rot in London, demonstrating how common sense Conservative policies can heal this damaged nation and put the whole country back on track.

I want what we achieve, here, to be a beacon for the rest of Britain to follow.

I have already honoured my campaign promise to put hundreds of uniformed men and women on major transport hubs.

The Metropolitan Police have beefed up their stop and search operation. They are focusing on key estates and are armed with knife scanners.

My alcohol ban on the London underground comes into force in a fortnight. This could be rolled out to stop drunks making life a misery on trains all over the country.


And so it continues in the same vein. Cliché piled on cliché like (as the cliché has it) Pelion on Ossa. The last sentence I quoted is especially telling, in its lack of thought, in its me-too adoption of Jacqui Smith's moronic proposal to ban alcohol on long-distance trains, above all, perhaps, in the blackboard-scraping ugliness of the phrase "rolled-out".

This shockingly awful prose doesn't just read like a press release. It reads like a New Labour press release at its most robotic. I find it impossible to believe that Boris Johnson, however busy he is in his new responsibilities, however much he has taken into his soul the need to appear un homme serieux and get away from the flippant verbal pyrotechnics of his Telegraph heyday, could have seen, let alone penned, such mush.

Most politicians employ underlings to write the newspaper articles that appear under their name, of course. A well-worn story about Peter Mandelson relates that he was once shown the text of a piece that was to appear under his by-line, and responded that it was perfectly acceptable, "So long as no-one believes I actually wrote it". There are good reasons for this. They are too busy; they are pushing a unified party line in the approved way; they are not professional writers.

But wasn't a large part of Boris's appeal that he was not a machine politician? Voters in London were sold Conservative policies, they were sold an end to Ken's conspiracy of cronies, but they were also sold a personality who wrote his own gaffes. As recently as the weekend before the poll, he was still recognisably the old Boris, learnedly informing reporters that there were no "Arian" divisions between what he was and what he must become: they were "consubstantial, co-eternal, homoousios". The real Boris might have placed his denunciation of yobbish behaviour in context with a reference to the desecration of the Athenian herms in 415 BC. He would certainly not have let through a pair of sentences as inelegant and devoid of insight as these.

Gangs, guns and drugs are proving more attractive to young people than family, school and qualifications. And that's got to stop.


Even if he was "writing" for the News of the World.

2 comments:

valdemar said...

Blimey, that was quick. Is there some sort of award for fastest political disillusionment of a leading blogger?
I heard him use the 'Arian' shtick and thought a. he's a bit of a show-off (hardly a mortal sin - we all are now and again) and b. he's misjudged his audience i.e. the voters.
Yes, some clever people are impressed by that sort of thing, but others probably feel they're being patronised by a public school smartarse. If you are a Cameroon, how much of that Old Etonian erudition do you want to flaunt? But if you can't write as you would like, how do you write, and speak in public? You adopt the protective camouflage of the day, which is corporate management speak.
None of which means Bozza will actually do stupid/oppressive/infuriating things.

The Heresiarch said...

Obviously, he has to be careful what he says. But can't he even be allowed to express it in his own words? My complaint isn't directed at BJ himself, who was probably just informed by a central office email that an article "by" him would be appearing in the Screws, and possibly not told at all. In fact I feel his pain. But here's the thing: he CAN write, and speak, as he wants to. After all, the election's over. He won. He's got four years and no-one can stop him.

Personally it's the babytalk of language like this that I find unbearably patronising; whereas it's quite flattering for voters to be addressed as people who might be assumed to know all about the theological controversies of the fourth century AD. Even if some papers rendered the word "Aryan". The best explanation I came across was from Christopher Howse in the Telegraph, who suggested that BJ likes to avoid cliché by "literalising": so where most people would speak loosely of a "theological distinction", BJ roots around in the back of his enormous brain and unearths a theological distinction to talk about.

As for the "leading blogger" thing: well, I'm working on it. But thanks.