And the winner is… Boris
Who was the real legacy-leaving victor of London 2012? It wasn’t any of the fine physical specimens who bamboozled us with their displays of speed and strength. It was a totally unsporty specimen who enthralled us with his PR acrobats in an unofficial event we might call the Political Zip-Wire.
Yes, it’s Boris Johnson, or just Boris, to give him his Madonna-style one-word moniker. The London Mayor was everywhere during the Games – sometimes wittingly, such as in those “Hi folks, it’s Boris!” announcements on the Tube that freaked out foreign visitors, and sometimes unwittingly, like when he dangled precariously on that zip-wire above Victoria Park, Union Jacks in hand, causing paroxysms of joy among the nation’s headline-writers and meme-creators.
The image of a flag-brandishing Boris being gawked at by a bemused nation has come to sum up his political persona: he’s a comedy Winston Churchill, fancying himself as a bit of a British bulldog but always coming across more like a calamity-prone poodle.
It’s now thought that, whether by sinister design or by happy accident, Boris’ Games will help propel him towards the gold medal of British politics: No 10. If that’s true, it tells us a lot about the state of the body politic.
It suggests people are quite taken with politicians who seem unspun. Stuck-in-the-80s left-wing commentators always fret that Boris is winning the fickle public over to a Thatcherite agenda by slyly affecting a bumbling demeanour.
They should chill out. What some Brits like about Boris is the perception that he isn’t spindoctored, that he’s willing to speak his mind and make a fool of himself, unlike the rest of the suits who rule over us. And the fact that David Cameron et al are panicking about the ‘Boris Bounce’ speaks volumes about their own insecurities, their fear of being isolated, possibly toppled, which no doubt springs from their dearth of a meaningful electoral mandate.
Behind the Boris effect is more than just a blond jester’s desire to get to Downing Street: there’s a bigger story of the public’s exasperation with cardboard cutout politicians, and the New Conservative Party’s feeling that its grip on power and public sentiment is waning.