Boris 'Le Bouffon'

The blond hair, that I cant help feel is kept in a studied state of disarray, is everywhere.  He is probably the most recognized politician in Britain – more than Cameron and certainly more than the geeky-school-swot lookalike now running Labour. He is also, despite his Turkish ancestry, the most English of celebrities – in the sense that it is hard to conceive of him flourishing anywhere else except in these sceptred isles: the thought of him in Germany is, well, unthinkable.

I was reading an article in the Figaro magazine last year which sought to explain Boris Johnson to a French readership - and it made fascinating reading. They asked the rhetorical question of how could anyone take this ‘bouffon’ seriously – and then answered it in a subtle and nuanced way. The author explained Boris’s social position: he is high society not High Society, part of a meritocracy  where he would be asked to the smartest of parties but without a debutant in sight. He could be a member of the Bullingdon Club with neither family money nor aristocratic forebears.

He also explained how the English (and I use English, not British intentionally) mistrust cleverness while appreciating intelligence – as long as it is disguised by wit and self-deprecation. This is the same trait that makes Jonathan Millar so miserable: he was born in the wrong place - in Germany he would rule the roost. He pointed out that far from being a fool, Boris is one of the most intelligent of public figures who has the high political nouse to understand, at a deep level what plays well in a society that is so finely tuned to class issues. He is the nob who isn’t one, with a huge brain playing the fool, the outsider who is an insider and the buffoon who is anything but.

He is recognizable everywhere he goes, impervious to gaffes because he just laughs them off, hugely ambitious without appearing so. He is ruthless while looking like a teddy bear. No wonder that French (and just about everyone else) scratch their heads at this particular phenomenon.

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