Join 3,433 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Bye bye Boris
March 25, 2013 5:26 AM   Subscribe

London mayor (and oft talked-up potential future PM) Boris Johnson is demolished in a slow motion bicycle crash of an interview. (The whole thing)
posted by fearfulsymmetry (92 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Eddie Mair FTW.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:31 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Unfortunately for Johnson, Mair was willing to change the subject.

....

By now most viewers are hiding behind their sofa, or telling their gawking children to look away, or ringing the BBC begging them to show the test card.

Those are two beautiful lines right there...
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:35 AM on March 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


The weird thing is that there was nothing new in any of this. Even the Darius Guppy thing has been aired endlessly. Why he bothered to turn up is beyond me.
posted by unSane at 5:39 AM on March 25, 2013


Anytime anyone says anything that begins with "Well, what happened was...", you can make a good bet that person is about to dig a very deep hole.
posted by roboton666 at 5:43 AM on March 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I had some trouble with the BBC video, so in case anyone else does too there's a mirror on youtube here (at least, for now).
posted by eykal at 5:43 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


This sort of thing is why my mayor literally sprints away from reporters.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:44 AM on March 25, 2013


Of course, the Guardian can rely on its readers already hating Boris, so it's pretty much preaching to the converted here. For an indication of how this is being spun by organs with rather more sway with gullible London voters than the Graun, see these pieces of prevaricating in the Tube commuters' Pravda, the Evening Boris.
posted by Sonny Jim at 5:45 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


(The Andrew Marr show on BBC iPlayer for those who need captions, starts at 26:50.)
posted by humph at 5:45 AM on March 25, 2013


That's not an interview. That's two obnoxious people arguing.
posted by bhnyc at 5:46 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Internal monologue: "Does The Card Cheat live in...? Yep."
posted by psoas at 5:46 AM on March 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


That's two obnoxious people arguing.

Welcome to British political interviewing.
posted by unSane at 5:47 AM on March 25, 2013 [24 favorites]


Boris is embarrassing to watch even at the best of times, I couldn't get past 2 minutes of that clip. I'm very glad of all the airtime this is getting and I hope it permanently squashes the stupid hints of Johnson as Prime Minister.

That said, it would have been amusing (in a terrifying way) to see the Conservative party squabble between Teresa May and Boris Johnson.
posted by like_neon at 5:48 AM on March 25, 2013


On the other hand, if the UK elected Boris, the US could probably stop worrying about having to explain GWB.
posted by unSane at 5:50 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Okay, there's one thing I don't get about the British-style combative/incisive interview.

Here, the interviewer notes "OK. But you made a quote up" and asks "Let me ask you about a barefaced lie. When you were in Michael Howard's team, you denied to him you were having an affair. It turned out you were and he sacked you for that. Why did you lie to your party leader?"

I just... Why not just have the telejournalist tell you about making things up, or about lying to the party leader, and present the relevant evidence? Apart from (a) schadenfreude and (b) a chance for a better speaker than Johnson to tell a convincing lie and contradict the plain evidence of fact that the reporter should already have, what does saying these things to Johnson instead of directly to the audience add?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:51 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Card Cheat: This sort of thing is why my mayor literally sprints away from reporters.
Oh, Johnson does plenty of that sort of thing, too. Don't worry.
posted by Sonny Jim at 5:51 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


what does saying these things to Johnson instead of directly to the audience add?

a) makes him squirm = good telly
b) supposedly gives him a chance to give his side of the story
posted by unSane at 5:54 AM on March 25, 2013


I actually like Boris Johnson a great deal as a person; his literate buffoonery is charming and disarming all at once; He is like Rob Ford with a good Eton education and a rugby career. That said; so much the snake in the grass waiting to catch us unawares, a clown prince with knives hidden up sleeves, so to say.

I imagine that this will do little to dislodge him from the office of mayor.
posted by NiteMayr at 5:55 AM on March 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


(Generally, the truth is that people only get invited on to answer allegations when they don't have a good answer. If they had a good answer, the broadcaster would most likely back off, or report their side of a story in a way that they have more control over. In this kind of situation, you don't want the audience thinking 'well, maybe there's another side to the story'. So you get Boris on, and he confirms that, no, there really isn't.)
posted by unSane at 5:56 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've met far too many people like Boris to have any time for him at all. The charm is about one millimetre deep. It's the charm of a hyper-entitled psychopathic drunk.
posted by unSane at 5:58 AM on March 25, 2013 [25 favorites]


what does saying these things to Johnson instead of directly to the audience add?

The pleasure, and I think, social utility, of seeing a wealthy and powerul individual squirm in discomfort. The social utility bit comes in under the presumptive future inability of the individual to win and hold elective offfice. Although, at least in the US, lying on camera and being caught and confronted about it also on camera is no real barrier to election, so ymmv, I guess.
posted by mwhybark at 5:59 AM on March 25, 2013


NiteMayr: One quote has it that the better you know Boris, the more you'll dislike him. I can't place the source though.

He's always been a very bright, driven individual with no scruples about changing his politics to match the prevailing winds. God knows what he'd do if he ever got his hands on real power.
posted by pharm at 6:00 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm at work at the moment, can someone please tell me where I have to fast forward to to get to the part where Malcolm Tucker shows up?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:00 AM on March 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


Boris seems to be popular for his bluff, buffoon approach. People find him amusing. Behind all this is a brain like a steel trap - he is a Tory hardliner - and it would be a disaster if he were even to be considered as a future PM. There is a suggestion though that the Tories don't want to win the next election and neither does Labour. So the Tories infuriate voters whilst Labour stays mostly silent. Meanwhile, Boris is waiting for 2020.
posted by mandarin fish at 6:01 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


also, ROU_Xenophobe, I somehow missed that you excluded schadenfreude as a reason for the practice, apologies.
posted by mwhybark at 6:02 AM on March 25, 2013


I actually like Boris Johnson a great deal as a person; his literate buffoonery is charming and disarming all at once
Why? Have you actually met him? Putting aside Johnson's media persona, my own preference would be for a mayor who could actually ... I don't know, prevent his own party from cutting great wads out of London's transport budget on his watch, or something. But no. We get a "literate buffoon"/showpony who presides over pointless cable-cars to nowhere and doesn't seem that interested in actually doing his day-to-day job.
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:06 AM on March 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I fully concede it wasn't my most blistering performance, but that was basically because I was set to talk about the Olympics and housing in London and he wanted to talk about other things, some of them – my private life and so on – of quite some antiquity, the details of which I wasn't brilliant on.

"He was perfectly within his rights to have a bash at me – in fact it would have been shocking if he hadn't. If a BBC presenter can't attack a nasty Tory politician what's the world coming to?"


He may be a twat but he plays the game pretty well.
posted by jmccw at 6:06 AM on March 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's the charm of a hyper-entitled psychopathic drunk.

Which is why he'll make such an excellent Prime Minister. He'll entertain the nation with his tricks (Watch Me Get Stuck On A Zipwire Folks!) while serving the interests of the people that want to buy the country. He's a perfect venn diagram of corporate interests and media profile, PR never had it so good.
posted by litleozy at 6:10 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've only met BJ once. He was drunk and dishevelled and I was in the company of a very well known English satirist.

After he left, the satirist turned to me, shook his head sadly, and said simply 'bonkers'.
posted by unSane at 6:10 AM on March 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


(which later became his nickname, of course, originated I think by the same satirist)
posted by unSane at 6:12 AM on March 25, 2013


I don't like Johnson, but I wouldn't say he was demolished. Mildly humiliated when reminded of material already in the public domain, I would say. He'll survive, like cartoon clowns always seem to survive.
posted by MrMerlot at 6:16 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


his literate buffoonery is charming and disarming all at once
Remarkable, isn't it, how such an charming, amiable, clueless buffoon has managed to gain so much power! Almost as if the whole thing were a carefully cultivated façade! ‘Disarming’ is probably the key word here.

That's why the Darius Guppy conversation is so damaging for him: abetting a guy who's planning to inflict GBH on an enemy doesn't fit very well with the "buffoon" act.
posted by pont at 6:18 AM on March 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe: what does saying these things to Johnson instead of directly to the audience add?

Because journalists over here prefer to engage in more constructive activities than on-screen fellatio?

Slightly more seriously, why should any politician be given a free ride in a television interview? If they want the platform, they should be prepared to engage, otherwise it's just a party political broadcast. A broadcast interview is a two-way process.
posted by fatfrank at 6:19 AM on March 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


The three minute video does much for Mair either. Telling your interviewee that they're a "nasty piece of work" jumps across from the impartiality the BBC bends over backwards to subscribe to and into the territory the Tories always claim the BBC is in: the rabidly leftist broadcast arm of the Guardian.

It's an old school ambush, and a weird place to raise old issues. It's as if Mair decided there and then that beneath his charm Boris was in fact a philandering big fat liar. Londoners and Tories know this, although some may forget it. Boris has never stood a chance of becoming PM despite the fevered imaginations of some papers. He has, as the interview reiterates, too many skeletons. And he is not trusted by Tory HQ to stay wholly on message when it comes down to London v national politics. Cameron finds him useful because Boris can present another side to the Conservatives, engage the Tory heartlands in the shires and not go too far off message.

I don't buy into the Boris schtick, FWIW. There is no more nakedly ambitious politician in the British Isles. But this is a strange interview.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:20 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Look at the quote jmccw posted. It's pure media genius.
The words chosen are absolutely fantastic at getting across what he wants to get across.

He doesn't denounce the presenter, he says it was entirely fair, so completely defusing the antagonism. He also says "If a BBC presenter can't attack a nasty Tory politician what's the world coming to?". This, in one go implies that the BBC is biased ("A nasty Tory"), while setting himself up as the good guy who's been put into to the pantomime villain role.

Suddenly instead of a scathing put down of a nasty sneaky politician he's the open, honest, charming, pantomime villain that the evil BBC have decided to set up, like they set up all the Tories because they're so biased.
He wasn't evil, deceitful and complicit in the past he "wasn't brilliant on the details" because he was expecting to talk about housing etc.

This is why he is in power, and why he really really needs to be kept away from any more of it.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:23 AM on March 25, 2013 [20 favorites]


The value of hostile questioning like this is partly the theatre and schadenfreude people have already mentioned. Even the most high-minded political show needs to pull in as many viewers as possible, and so must include an measure of entertainment in its content.

Also, by putting a politician under pressure on live television like this, there's always the chance that you'll make him let slip something he shouldn't, or even blurt out some claim that's provably untrue. Either of these bungles can take the story on another step and perhaps provide a headline in their own right. And both are far harder to obtain if you let the politician draft a prepared statement in the tranquil solitude of his own office.
posted by Paul Slade at 6:23 AM on March 25, 2013


There's a bit of indestructibility to him, like a British Edwin Edwards.
posted by surplus at 6:27 AM on March 25, 2013


I'm not sure lines of questioning affect impartiality. You are partial if you say "you are a nasty piece of work" but not if you ask it as a question. Works the same way with libel. Make a statement, and you can be sued. Ask a question, and you can't.

"The three minute video does much for Mair either. Telling your interviewee that they're a "nasty piece of work" jumps across from the impartiality the BBC bends over backwards to subscribe to and into the territory the Tories always claim the BBC is in: the rabidly leftist broadcast arm of the Guardian."
posted by MrMerlot at 6:28 AM on March 25, 2013


You can tell the writer of that Guardian piece had fun writing it.

I'm also okay with the media declining to go along with politicians who constantly try to spin and set the agenda for how they get their message out. Even if it only happens once in a blue moon.
posted by dry white toast at 6:32 AM on March 25, 2013


Look at the quote jmccw posted. It's pure media genius. The words chosen are absolutely fantastic at getting across what he wants to get across.
Well, yeah. Maybe. Although they don't make Boris look any less shifty. From the statement:
he wanted to talk about other things, some of them – my private life and so on – of quite some antiquity, the details of which I wasn't brilliant on.
I mean, seriously. Would you really trust someone who said he was a little hazy on the "details" of his own "private life"? What does that say about the man?
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:44 AM on March 25, 2013


I don't trust him an inch, but I am decidedly hazy on the details of my own private life.
posted by unSane at 6:47 AM on March 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


Sonny Jim: I actually like Boris Johnson a great deal as a person; his literate buffoonery is charming and disarming all at once
Why? Have you actually met him? Putting aside Johnson's media persona, my own preference would be for a mayor who could actually ... I don't know, prevent his own party from cutting great wads out of London's transport budget on his watch, or something. But no. We get a "literate buffoon"/showpony who presides over pointless cable-cars to nowhere and doesn't seem that interested in actually doing his day-to-day job.


It's almost as if "like him as a person" implied they didn't like his politics or job performance.

I notice that whenever Johnson comes up, it's not enough to disagree with him, you have to hate him and speculate he's a sociopath, otherwise you'll get a lecture about how evil he is.
posted by spaltavian at 6:49 AM on March 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sheesh...you folks in London could sack this piece of work and bring in Kwame Kilpatrick and come out ahead on the deal!
posted by HuronBob at 6:58 AM on March 25, 2013


As someone who's not left-wing, can I advise you that he doesn't come across nearly as badly as y'all and the Guardian think he does? Seems like a jovial straight-forward chap to me. I'm sure you'd prefer a good robotic party hack who sticks rigidly to the approved talking points, but I wouldn't.

Remember before the 2004 election, when Metafilter was full of tales about how Bush had fallen off the wagon, and was falling apart, and all his debates were robotic and moronic? Yeah. What happened then?
posted by alasdair at 7:07 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, I'm a total outsider, not in the UK. I know basically nothing about Boris Johnson except that he's a Tory mayor of London with his eye to become prime minister. I'm sure he's a real asshole or whatever, but from where I'm sitting, that was a bit unfair.

First off all, the affair: if you're having an affair, of course you're going to lie to people about it. That's not the big deal about it, the big deal is that you are cheating on your spouse. I'm assuming this was already known before this interview, and the British public has apparently decided to move on from this transgression. Who cares if he told a lie during this time? Presumably, he lied to almost everyone, that's what you do when you're having an affair. It's seems ridiculous to me that people forgive him for being unfaithful, but judge him for lying about it.

Second, the phone call: if, as he says, it happened 20 years ago and nothing came out of it, surely that's not that big of a deal? If I had been a public figure for decades and there was thousands of hours of me speaking unrehearsed (or even in private, as this was), I'm absolutely sure you could dig up some bit of tape that implies that I would want to literally kill someone. And I'm a very nice guy.

The newspaper thing sounds real bad, though. I don't know the details, but if he really made up a quote, then that is absolutely valid. It seems weird that it hasn't sunk him until now, though.

But again, I know nothing of British politics, so maybe I'm wrong about all of this. But that was the sense I got from the interview.
posted by gkhan at 7:09 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I ascribed events that were supposed to have taken place before the death of Piers Gaveston to events that actually took place after the death of Piers Gaveston"

As desperate, flailing attempts to seek cover in jocularity and trivialization go, I have to admit that is gold. Why can't American interviews be more like this -- in every sense?
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:24 AM on March 25, 2013


I notice that whenever Johnson comes up, it's not enough to disagree with him, you have to hate him and speculate he's a sociopath, otherwise you'll get a lecture about how evil he is.

I suspect a large part of it is just that people are scared. They really, really want you not to fall for Boris's act, because they worry that if you do, and if people keep falling for it, then one day we'll all wake up in a country that he runs. See: Bush. So, never forget - it could happen here too.

And there really is no denying that his persona is jolly likeable. People who have lived a privileged, carefree existence often are: they are not scarred by all the bad experiences that those with less money and power have had to deal with. Boris is genuinely charming, as only someone so protected can be. No matter what happens, he can always retreat into that vast carelessness, that breezy public school-boy persona. You cannot touch him.

As for the right-wing press, well of course they will say that they see things differently. They will say whatever they have been told to say - they always do. The right-wing press is the most collectivist, self-sacrificing social organisation in the modern west. If someone takes a shot, however on target, against one of their boys, then by God he rouses the whole hornets' nest and they all buzz out, swearing that it was only a flesh wound and racing each other to be first to jump on the truth and ensure that the blast doesn't do too much harm to any well-heeled bystanders.

So, no disagreement: Boris is likeable. The gutter press will defend him.

But I did think it was very funny that his dad decided to give the BBC a good talking to.
posted by lucien_reeve at 7:32 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Boris has been a very good (from the point of view of his writing skills) and a very bad (from the point of view of what he did with them) journalist. He's very good with words. When you see him bluster and stumble, as he did with Eddie Mair, then he's using ink like a squid, not a wordsmith, and through choice. It's a masterful performance, but he's running away like Mo.

Charismatic, power-hungry bastards have their uses, but by Jove you need to be sure what you're getting before you vote one in. With Boris, nobody knows - and everybody knows. Even the Tories are scared of him, and rightly so.

(I've been in studio with Eddie Mair a few times, a couple on the receiving end on-air of his particular skill set. He's tough, quick, knows how to disarm through humour (a trick Paxman unhappily conflates with sardonicism) and takes risks. One time, I was there for the item immediately after Boris had done a phoner with him, which hadn't gone to plan - that time, Boris was in full flow about Boris Island and would not be shut down. They have history, and personally I can't think of a better matched pair. Mair is just as sharp, and knows that if he doesn't go heavily on the attack in the right way and with some despatch, the interview won't go anywhere that Boris doesn't like.)
posted by Devonian at 7:35 AM on March 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


How different the dynamic for political interviewing is between the UK and the US. In the US, I imagine most politicians, left or right, would be schooled to hit back hard to such questioning, perhaps with ready-to-launch claims about the lack of partiality of the network hosting the interview. That Johnson remains at least superficially respectful of the interviewer, and takes a stab, however lame, at answering the questions, is striking, though I guess that could describe Sarah Palin's disastrous first interview with Katie Couric, too.

What both political/media cultures share in common is assessing success or failure on appearance: the bicycle wreck seems largely an issue of how flummoxed and stammery (I guess Hugh Grant-like) Johnson was, rather than on the merits of the character issue the interviewer was raising. That'd be right at home in the US. (Josh Marshall at TPM describes the phenomenon well here.)
posted by zittrain at 7:35 AM on March 25, 2013


I'm just surprised that the guy showed up for the interview in the first place. Did he really have no idea what he was in for? Did he think he could manage to come off looking good? It's basically impossible to pull off a good interview if the interviewer is hostile, so why bother? (It's not totally impossible, true; I can think of a few instances where a really good guest has turned the tables on a hostile questioner and actually made them look bad, but it's not something you'd want to bet on doing regularly.)

At least in the US, I suspect most candidates for high office would simply decline to be interviewed if they suspected it was going to be embarrassing, and then turn around and give an exclusive to a more friendly outlet. Of course, that presumes that the candidate can, in fact, find a "friendly outlet" -- is Johnson really that much of a buffoon that he couldn't find a less hostile one? Or just so arrogant that he thought he could manage it?
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:36 AM on March 25, 2013



I notice that whenever Johnson comes up, it's not enough to disagree with him, you have to hate him and speculate he's a sociopath, otherwise you'll get a lecture about how evil he is.
posted by spaltavian at 2:49 PM on March 25 [1 favorite +] [!]


Yeah, there's a reason for that. A good part of which is that people who appear willing to overlook little things like Johnson trying to get a mate to break an enemy's ribs appear to be sorely in need of such a lecturing.
posted by Decani at 7:37 AM on March 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


> Bye bye Boris

I don't have much knowledge of Boris or any feelings about him one way or the other. It is nice, though, when mefi offers a testable prediction.
posted by jfuller at 7:40 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Because journalists over here prefer to engage in more constructive activities than on-screen fellatio?

Slightly more seriously, why should any politician be given a free ride in a television interview?


Well, in case it wasn't clear, I wasn't asking "Why run an interview like this?" but "Why bother with the interview? Why not just demolish him with the evidence you have already?"

And I gather that it's mostly a desire for good theater on the part of the broadcaster and the opportunity to possibly skew it in your direction instead of being taken down in absentia from the point of view of the politician, balanced by some chance of making things even worse if you fuck up.

I've just always found it weird that there were so many UK interviews that were "Here's eight horrible things you've done. Care to comment?" as opposed to noninterviews that simply laid out the eight horrible things that had been done.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:42 AM on March 25, 2013


I actually like Boris Johnson a great deal as a person; his literate buffoonery is charming and disarming all at once

This attitude does my head in. There's not exactly a lack of evidence that he's a racist, cheating liar who hides his odious right-wingery behind a tattered fig leaf of jolly one-nation Toryism, but it's somehow okay for otherwise sane people to like him because he talks like a sherry-soused Latin master and has funny hair?

Fuck that. It's the chattering classes equivalent of chuckling at Jeremy Clarkson's latest outpouring of bile on Top Gear even though you yourself definitely don't hate foreigners, travellers, women, gay people and ooh look he just drove a tank over an old caravan tee hee hee.

Of course, if you do share his right wing views, go ahead and adopt Boris Johnson as your personal hero; if you don't, it just seems completely and utterly shitty to give him a free pass on his horrible politics and murky morals because he's mildly amusing (which, fair enough, he often is).

On preview:

I notice that whenever Johnson comes up, it's not enough to disagree with him, you have to hate him and speculate he's a sociopath, otherwise you'll get a lecture about how evil he is.

Oops ;-)
posted by jack_mo at 7:43 AM on March 25, 2013 [18 favorites]


Telling your interviewee that they're a "nasty piece of work" jumps across from the impartiality the BBC bends over backwards to subscribe to and into the territory the Tories always claim the BBC is in: the rabidly leftist broadcast arm of the Guardian...I don't buy into the Boris schtick, FWIW. There is no more nakedly ambitious politician in the British Isles. But this is a strange interview.


MuffinMan
Very much agree - the "you're a nasty piece of work..." nip was a weird and cringe-worthy device (I am fairly sure it's not even original? I could swear there was another media fisticuffs using that particular insult.) The interviewer came off far worse.

This was not a demolition by an stretch.

In fact - the way the interview was framed for the post - at first I assumed that Boris's smooth yet disgusting anti-immigrant speech was going to give the interviewer his "gotcha"! Jesus, if you are going to accuse a cannily ambitious guy like Johnson of over stating the immigrant "threat" to woo popular support (which he does) - have some hard facts at your own fingertips!

I couldn't believe the interviewer took a little jab at Boris & his oh-so-prettily-judged anti- immigration schtick - then simply backed away.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:45 AM on March 25, 2013


Question for any MeFite who's very familiar with NYC and London politics: is Boris the Bloomberg of Britain? I can't quite tell...
posted by rednikki at 7:49 AM on March 25, 2013


What was the quote he made up? I assume the business about 'Piers Gaveston' does not mean the quote was actually about the reign of Edward II but is some allusion to the Piers Gaveston Society?
posted by Segundus at 7:52 AM on March 25, 2013


"then he's using ink like a squid, not a wordsmith". Brilliant! Well played, Devonian.
posted by epo at 7:55 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the quote was about the real Piers Gaveston, and he made up a quote from the historian Colin Lucas, who was also his Godfather.
posted by unSane at 7:57 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also don't get the "Bye bye Boris" title. Did he just resign from politics or get cancer or something? Or is that just pure editorializing?
posted by amorphatist at 8:01 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is not much worse than what happens to him regularly on Have I Got News For You.
posted by srboisvert at 8:03 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there's a reason for that. A good part of which is that people who appear willing to overlook little things like Johnson trying to get a mate to break an enemy's ribs appear to be sorely in need of such a lecturing.

Consider that not everyone needs your Two Minutes Hate to make sound decisions.

And to the argument that "we're trying to keep you being fooled by him the way you were fooled by Bush": I wasn't fooled by Bush, and neither was the vast majority of Metafilter, a left-leaning site. Your crusade is not required.
posted by spaltavian at 8:08 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know - I'm not sure that interview was as bad as it's being made out to be. The most basic problem with this interview is that it seems to assume that the audience knows the detailed background to the questions.

It's not at all clear what his actual transgressions were. Making up a quote? Huh? What does that mean? He told the Times that someone said something to him? It doesn't sound good, but I'm not really sure what it's all about.

Lying to his party leader about an affair? Good heavens! You mean that when people are having affairs, they don't automatically volunteer the information when asked? It's interesting that the journalists thinks the real transgression in Johnson having an affair is that he was untruthful to his party leader (as opposed to, say, his wife).

As for this phone conversation thing, it really depends on the personalities involved. Was Johnson's friend really looking to have someone beat up, or was he just venting, and Johnson played along?

British left-wingers seem to reserve some sort of special hatred for Johnson. He seems to have good sides and bad, but this looks a lot more like politics than serious journalism to me.
posted by Dasein at 8:10 AM on March 25, 2013


You can tell these are in fact substantive issues by how poorly Boris handled the interview, he'd not be evading so hard if he didn't care about being associated with them.
posted by Abiezer at 8:13 AM on March 25, 2013


I also don't get the "Bye bye Boris" title. Did he just resign from politics or get cancer or something? Or is that just pure editorializing?

From the gist of the thread, I'd say it was expressing a distant but attractive hope?

Just going through this guy's Wikipedia entry shows he's been in multiple scandals in both his pre-political and political careers and kept rising all through it, and the posted interview doesn't seem to be world-changing. It's based on old events and old news that seem to have been widely known for a while now. So no, I very much doubt Boris will be going anywhere soon.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:15 AM on March 25, 2013


He told the Times that someone said something to him? It doesn't sound good, but I'm not really sure what it's all about.


One second of googling would have informed you that he was a journalist on the Times, who made up a quote from a famous historian.
posted by unSane at 8:17 AM on March 25, 2013


Yeah, but if I need to do research to understand what the hell the interviewer is talking about, it's not a good interview.
posted by Dasein at 8:23 AM on March 25, 2013


The interview is aimed at people who are up to speed on British politics. It's riffing off a documentary which is about to air on British TV.
posted by unSane at 8:26 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The programme is for UK viewers with an above-average interest in politics/wonkery, so don't think your objection holds, Dasein - if they weren't at least vaguely aware of some of this before (I'd heard the Guppy rumours somewhere) it would still all appear damaging to Boris's cultivated image of bluff honesty, IMO.
posted by Abiezer at 8:27 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


unSane: One second of googling would have informed you that he was a journalist on the Times, who made up a quote from a famous historian.


Ouch, unSane!

That's a bit unfair. True, it only takes a second to check if you know exactly where to look - and you're clearly someone familiar with him unlike the person who made that comment. But Boris Johnson has a long bio these days. Also the interview was drawing on material from many different periods in Johnson's career.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:28 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The interview is aimed at people who are up to speed on British politics.

I guess being up to speed in Britain implies a more thorough familiarity with every trangression ever committed by a politician than I would have thought. If that's who his target audience was, then I don't know whose mind he's going to change.
posted by Dasein at 8:30 AM on March 25, 2013


unSane: "He told the Times that someone said something to him? It doesn't sound good, but I'm not really sure what it's all about.


One second of googling would have informed you that he was a journalist on the Times, who made up a quote from a famous historian.
"

In 1987.
The threatening call to a journalist was revealed in 1995.
The lying about his affair was revealed in 2004.

He was elected Mayor of London in 2008.

Not to excuse any of this, or the rest of Boris' blotted copy, but he has already survived all of this and risen to power.

So "Bye Bye Boris" is indeed wishful thinking.
posted by chavenet at 8:32 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


rednikki: "Question for any MeFite who's very familiar with NYC and London politics: is Boris the Bloomberg of Britain? I can't quite tell..."

I think he might be closer to a Giuliani, but I would say that the politics of the London mayor's office do seem to superficially mimic those of NYC.

Basically, running a big city like London or New York is mind-bendingly difficult, and presents many opportunities for corruption (possibly more than any other level of government). As long as the mayor gets shit done, projects a "straight-talking tough guy" persona, and isn't blatantly corrupt, the people of these cities are willing to forgive almost everything else. The ability to competently run the city completely trumps the mayor's actual political positions.

The inhabitants of these cities are also willing to forgive mayors with odd views on matters of national policy. NYC (which is super-liberal in all other respects) routinely elects Republican mayors by wide margins. The personal lives of these mayors are also often complete trainwrecks, which would be enough to completely sink a politician in just about any other part of the country.

tl;dr; When people vote for Boris Johnson, Michael Bloomberg, and Rudy Giuliani, they're really voting for Havelock Vetinari.

Now, if only DC took this matter to heart. We kicked out our not-too-corrupt straight-talking mayor in favor of a guy who pretty much built his entire platform around political patronage and stoking the coals of racial discord. We desperately need a "gets shit done" kind of mayor.
posted by schmod at 8:34 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think he might be closer to a Giuliani, but I would say that the politics of the London mayor's office do seem to superficially mimic those of NYC.

A lot closer to Giuliani. Bloomberg isn't perfect, but he's nothing near incompetent, and from what I can see here, Boris is one screwup after another. I could be wrong, I don't live in London. Or, for that matter, New York.

Note that doing something you don't like isn't automatically incompetence.

Did they ever get the bendy buses off the streets? Those buses are awesome in Chicago*, where the streets are a grid and most of the turns are 90 degrees, but in London? Oy.

The ability to competently run the city completely trumps the mayor's actual political positions.

Indeed. Indeed, in Chicago, the Mayors Daley staying power had everything to do with this. Yes, the machine was a factor, and they were as crooked as anybody else in that job, but we know exactly what to do to mayors who can't pick up the trash or get the streets plowed. Michael Bilandic, I'm looking at you.



* Well, except for the 200 NABI buses that had to be pulled off the street because they noticed the joint holding the two parts of the bus together was failing. The lawsuits are still ongoing, those buses were supposed to be useful for at least 10 years and barely made 4.

Still, I guess it's better than the London bendy buses, which seem to have this "halt and catch fire" problem.
posted by eriko at 8:54 AM on March 25, 2013


Yeah, there's a reason for that. A good part of which is that people who appear willing to overlook little things like Johnson trying to get a mate to break an enemy's ribs appear to be sorely in need of such a lecturing.
posted by Decani at 3:37 PM on March 25


That's not entirely accurate. It was Guppy who wanted to do the rib-breaking. Johnson was asked by Guppy to supply the telephone number/address for a tabloid journalist who had been investigating Guppy. In the conversation (partial transcript here) Johnson agreed to supply this (although not very enthusiastically). After the recording of the conversation was made public, Johnson denied that he had ever actually supplied those details to Guppy and, indeed, the tabloid journalist in question was never actually assaulted.

There's plenty of things that are objectionable about Boris Johnson. But while he doesn't come out of the Guppy incident looking great, it's not like he was instigating the violence.
posted by xchmp at 9:06 AM on March 25, 2013


Bye bye Boris

Whilst Cameron is a long way from being dead the blood is in the water and the sharks are starting to circulate and even some of the smaller ones are dashing in for a quick nibble with the beginnings of tentative leadership challenges... meanwhile, out in the murkier water, the big fish are slowly moving into position to ready themselves for any chance that might come up.

Great White Boris is secure in his position as mayor but I think his chances of becoming PM have just a had a huge gaff stuck in them...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:11 AM on March 25, 2013


The ability to competently run the city completely trumps the mayor's actual political positions.

I'd argue that this is the case in municipal politics generally, regardless of the size of the city/town. Being perceived as a good mayor or city councillor often seems more about being perceived as a good manager than it does with being a principled politician. Few people care about your political views if the streets aren't plowed in a timely manner after a snowstorm.

Of course, at least in Canada, the vast majority of municipal politicians don't run explicitly partisan campaigns, as seems to be the case in London and NYC (and possibly England and the USA in general); outside a few of the larger cities, people may not even be aware of their mayor's political principals. If council can keep the streets free of snow and make sure that the buses run on time, they tend to get re-elected.
posted by asnider at 9:12 AM on March 25, 2013


tl;dr; When people vote for Boris Johnson, Michael Bloomberg, and Rudy Giuliani, they're really voting for Havelock Vetinari.

I've never been so offended on the behalf of a fictional character in my life.
posted by Etrigan at 9:18 AM on March 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


Sonny Jim: I compared him favorably to Rob Ford, let me assure you I was comparing vomit to diarrhea, at least with the former you can sometimes say it is punishment for a good time had by all. Still, both are unwelcome at the dinner table.
posted by NiteMayr at 9:24 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


>That's two obnoxious people arguing.

Welcome to British political interviewing.


CBC Radio's As It Happens has become like this, but the radio interviewers are also dumber than the pols. Very sad.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:31 AM on March 25, 2013


Fuck that. It's the chattering classes equivalent of chuckling at Jeremy Clarkson's latest outpouring of bile on Top Gear even though you yourself definitely don't hate foreigners, travellers,

Wasn't the point of the interview (for Johnson, anyway) to demonstrate he thinks the new Tory hard-on-immigrants policy will actually hurt London?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:36 AM on March 25, 2013


I thought the interview was unfair. There's more to hang Johnson on than the things raised, such as his record as London Mayor. Mair should be warned about becoming John Humphrys, who is little more than a self-parody now.
posted by Jehan at 9:43 AM on March 25, 2013


"Well, in case it wasn't clear, I wasn't asking "Why run an interview like this?" but "Why bother with the interview? Why not just demolish him with the evidence you have already?"

And I gather that it's mostly a desire for good theater on the part of the broadcaster and the opportunity to possibly skew it in your direction instead of being taken down in absentia from the point of view of the politician, balanced by some chance of making things even worse if you fuck up.

I've just always found it weird that there were so many UK interviews that were "Here's eight horrible things you've done. Care to comment?" as opposed to noninterviews that simply laid out the eight horrible things that had been done.
"

There are several reasons:

First off, factual reports delivered in a dry tone are dismissed as the bias of the opposition. Rough questioning on air cuts the legs out from underneath a lot of spin — it's harder to argue that people didn't see what they saw if it involves the inability to answer a rough question. Second off, it props up the independence of the press. Instead of giving today's toady time to prevaricate and bullshit, as even our "lefty" NPR does, it aligns the interviewer with the harsh truth and puts bullshit on its heels. Third, it is fair — you get your chance to comment on the issues, presented bluntly.

What you're seeing is what free press looks like when it's not a bunch of courtiers who require access in order to break stories.
posted by klangklangston at 9:56 AM on March 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


I expect it helps if you know a bit about Eddie Mair's interview style which tends to only turn adversarial if the interviewee is trotting out talking points or not answering the question, which is what happens each night on his Radio 4 show PM.

Here he is knocking holes in Frances Maud two years ago.
posted by feelinglistless at 10:47 AM on March 25, 2013


Someone really has the name "Darius Guppy"? Is Harry Potter actually social realism? England is a very strange place.
posted by mumimor at 1:31 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Darius Guppy is a phenomenally nasty piece of work.
posted by unSane at 1:42 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


This beast, it HUNGERS! #BJ2016
posted by basicchannel at 1:59 PM on March 25, 2013


Eddie Mair: a rising BBC star
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:02 PM on March 25, 2013


Someone really has the name "Darius Guppy"? Is Harry Potter actually social realism? England is a very strange place.
Interestingly, the fish is named after his forebear, and his mum is Persian. Darius Guppy is thus a seemly name, though he himself may be less than seemly.
posted by Jehan at 2:25 PM on March 25, 2013


Inevitable comparison to the Ben Swain character's Newsnight interview on The Thick of It
posted by rossmeissl at 8:53 PM on March 25, 2013


Darius Guppy is a phenomenally nasty piece of work.

Two negative pieces in the Daily Mail usually indicates intrinsic goodness.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 5:12 AM on March 26, 2013


Let me know how that works out for you with Guppy.
posted by unSane at 5:43 AM on March 26, 2013


Does Mr Mair pull out the knives for Labour as well as Tory? Genuinely curious.

I don't follow British politics all that closely, but if even I, an east coast USAer, was acquainted with the three issues, I don't see the groundbreaking here.

Ratings bait, I would assume.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:44 PM on March 26, 2013


« Older When the US Department of Energy halted Plutonium ...  |  One insider's view of the mobi... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments