Americans have easily identifiable mannerisms
London's mayor himself uses embarrassments to sharpen his brand: They make him human. He sugar-coated bitter political pills and personal ambition with wit, which he uses in public appearances, newspaper columns and books.
“As I have found out myself, there are no disasters, only good opportunities. And of course, good opportunities for new disasters, ”says Boris Johnson, who became mayor of the English capital for the second time at the beginning of May. His re-election was mainly due to a sympathetic decision of the audience. The election campaign resulted in a personal test of strength with his rival Ken Livingstone, who was already defeated by him in 2008. And since the "red Ken" appeared arrogant, passé and tired and the charismatic self-promoter Boris, like four years before, aroused positive feelings in the electorate, he triumphed again this time - even if only just barely. But the Tory victory in the battle for London mayor was primarily a celebration for Johnson. Because he had prevailed in the local elections against the trend that cost the ruling Conservatives of Prime Minister David Cameron more than 400 seats. Meanwhile, voices are growing that see the highly ambitious aspiring to the country's first office, David Cameron's post. Johnson denies this. But those who seem so authentic have always known how to charmingly disguise their ambitions.
Tailor-made bowl image
As a pupil at the elite Eton Institute and as a student at Oxford, he was not only noticed by his white-blonde head of hair, but also by his messy appearance, which has since become one of the standards of every description of himself. When he first appeared on the political floor of students, friends always had Tipp-Ex ready for the stains on the shirts and shoe polish for the footwear he had taken with them. When the lighting was good, the dizziness was not noticed. The dissolute look is not entirely unintentional: The curly hairstyle and a friendly laisser-faire are part of the personal branding, as is the green touch that the eternally cycling city boss adopted, who in reality positions himself discreetly but firmly to the right of David Cameron's moderate conservatism . The visual impression complements the mannerisms of his intellectual persona: the pseudo-absent-minded stuttering, self-irony, a preference for quotes from the classics and rarely used vocabulary, undiplomatic punchlines and cheek, his generous but entertaining handling of the truth left the 47-year-old today hardly appear as a serious candidate in political business. Thanks to his origins in the English upper class, he reminded many of a character in a novel by P. G. Wodehouse, who created a world of eccentric but lovable upper class idiots. They are part of the familiar folklore of the English audience. Political opponents and doubters, including those from their own political camp, fell for Johnson's game of fools and underestimated his chances in public. Until it turned out that his tailor-made bowl image, which turned a personal disposition into a style, was brilliant.
But the idea, fueled by increasing rumors, of seeing Johnson, also popularly known as BoJo, in the "Top Job" in Downing Street fills even his conservative party friends with horror. "It is irresistible, but potentially catastrophic," the Sunday Times quoted a young Tory companion as saying. His critical biographer Sonia Purnell describes Johnson's mayoral style of management as friendly but chaotic, and his services as not very distinctive.
If the employees of his predecessor Ken Livingstone had always known where they were, Boris Johnson, who is very reluctant to look into his cards, is good for surprises and opportunistic twists and turns. Whenever he looked bad - when the riot broke out last summer, he didn't return from vacation until four days later - the public was quick to forgive him. His re-election, writes Purnell, is not least symptomatic of the extent to which prominence and popularity in public life in England have replaced the values of achievement and class consciousness. In addition to the high visibility, Boris Johnson can also claim the traditional and, in recent years, rather frowned upon success factor of the “right” origin for himself.
Thanks to his talent for populism, the father of four, who repeatedly made a name for himself through affairs, is gladly forgiven the upper-class snob. But to this day, his professional dual nature is one of the favorite arguments of his opponents: Because the politician is also a journalist and writes books by the dozen while at the same time running the business of one of the largest cities in the world. The former editor-in-chief of the conservative weekly “Spectator” still fills a weekly column in the “Daily Telegraph”, which he brazenly uses in his political favor. In the meantime, German-speaking readers can also take a look at Johnson's dazzling world. His novel “72 Virgins”, which originally appeared four years before Johnson's assumption of office as mayor, will be published in German these days. It is, of course, a «comedy thriller».
Sense of human weakness
In doing so, Johnson reveals a keen sense of very different milieus, but above all of human weaknesses. Its main character is a London parliamentarian, as Johnson has been long enough - riding a bicycle, legendarily untidy and always slipping past the catastrophe by a hair's breadth. Completely absorbed by himself and the threat of an affair being exposed, he overlooks the portents of a terrorist attack that is looming before his eyes: Boris's strong point has always been self-parody, which earned him the sympathy of the very receptive English audience.
But the protagonist is not the only failure in this story, in which Muslim terrorists kidnap the American president in front of the world and threaten to blow him up. The entire, caricatured depicted staff is without exception incompetent, vain, more or less disturbed and simply stupid. In particular, the president, whose name is never mentioned, but who is easily identifiable as George W. Bush, is the target of ridicule.
If something works in Johnson's world, it's just by pure chance. In the novel, this leads to a considerable comic effect. For London's future, however, one is reluctant to envision the manifestation of this philosophy.
Boris Johnson: 72 virgins. German by Juliane Zaubitzer. Haffmans & Tolkemitt Verlag, Berlin 2012. 416 pp., € 19.95. Sonia Purnell: Just Boris. The Irresistible Rise of a Political Celebrity. Aurum Press, London 2011. 450 pp. £ 20.–.
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