The best of enemies: Ken Livingstone (left) offers his congratulations as Boris Johnson is announced the victor of the 2008 mayoral election (Ray Tang/Rex Features)
The politicians other politicians envy are so popular with the public that millions of people think they are on first-name terms with them, even though they do not know them and would not like them if they did. Just as Kylie Minogue is simply "Kylie", so Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is "Boris" and Kenneth Robert Livingstone "Ken".
Johnson and Livingstone (I won't call them by their first names because although I know them I don't particularly like them) appear to be leaders for the 21st century. They understand that the old party loyalties have collapsed, and with them the old tolerance of machine politicians. In the world of Big Brother and The X Factor, they too are celebrities who receive a mandate from the amused public which allows them to escape from the constraints that bind their contemporaries.
David Cameron and George Osborne are upper-class men uneasy about their origins and uncomfortable in their own skins. They hide their backgrounds and pretend to be middle-class for fear of inciting the prejudices of the masses. Johnson is their opposite. A convincing explanation not only for his pushiness but the pushiness of the entire Johnson clan is that they had little inherited wealth and no established position, but compensated by acquiring the haste and ambition of the parvenu.
Rather than emphasising that he is not the toff he seems, however, Johnson rubs the voters' noses in his privileges. Instead of rejecting an Old Etonian who went to Oxford, joined the Bullingdon Club, became president of the Union, and moved on to Conservative newspapers and Conservative politics, the voters warm to him in a way they have never warmed to Cameron or to any other contemporary Tory. The more public school slang and Latin tags Johnson deploys, the louder the audience cheers. In the public eye, Johnson is barely a politician at all, but that stock English character, the amiable Wodehousian gent.
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