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Coffee House

Who points the finger? Darius Guppy offers a defence of Boris Johnson

27 March 2013

2:46 PM

27 March 2013

2:46 PM

Eddie Mair has more front than Harrods. Consider this: a member of the British Media, Mr Mair, berates another former such member, Boris Johnson, for making up quotes! What planet are you living on, Mr Mair? Making things up is what people in your profession do for a living!

The Leveson Inquiry focuses on one particular scandal – but hacking into voicemails is among the least of the crimes committed by a metier which is almost single-handedly responsible for the cultural degradation of an entire nation.

Next, Mr Johnson, a politician, is criticised for lying to another politician, Michael Howard, all the while his interviewer feigning horror and surprise. Again, Mr Mair, what brand of glue are you sniffing? That’s what politicians do. Yes, they lie. Just like journalists. And they fiddle their expenses and they pervert the course of justice and they commit perjury and they make up stories to justify invading countries and killing hundreds of thousands of people. Welcome to the real world.

And then Mr Mair attacks the Mayor of London for agreeing, when in his mid-20s, to supply a friend – me – with the address of a News of the World journalist so that the journalist in question could be given the hiding which most of us secretly admit such people deserve.

Tell me, Mr Mair, if a piece of tabloid scum wished to smear members of your family, what would you do? Cry? Report him to the Press Complaints Commission?

As we all know, Mr Johnson never provided me with any address. It is perfectly clear from the tape recording in question that he was simply placating a friend whom he considered to be letting off steam. But while this may rightly exonerate the Mayor of London, my own line has always been somewhat different – and consistent: my only regret being that I was never able to finish the job.

Likewise, the lure of no public office in the land could tempt me (unlike certain of my contemporaries) to fawn before people like the Murdochs. Individuals whose heads, in a better age, would be pinned to Traitors’ Gate.

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Members of the British media should aspire to similar consistency. They may turn up their noses, for example, when journalists hack the voicemail of some celebrity using a technique known to most nine-year-olds. But did Mr Mair not consider the circumstances under which the Johnson tape was obtained? A police informer planting listening devices in someone’s home – an offence for which he was arrested. He admitted guilt, only to sell the recordings to the press at a later stage.

The methods may differ slightly. But they both constitute the same crime: illegal interception of communications. Fruit from the rotten tree.

But it is what Mr Mair did not question which reveals the moral bankruptcy both of his profession  and society itself. Tell me, Mr Mair, which do you think will cause Mr Johnson the greater difficulty on the Day of Judgement? Making up some quotes as a journalist, or the ritual humiliation of his wife and children?

The fact that this argument been raised almost nowhere illustrates the topsy-turvy, Daily Mail-like nature of the British media’s moral posturing. We have become so utterly deadened to acts of genuine immorality, so totally immune to the breaking of vows made before God, so casual in the face of constant assaults on the sacred concept of family that real crimes do not even raise an eyebrow. Such reasoning does not even enter our minds.

But should being ‘a nasty piece of work’, as Mr Mair put it, preclude Mr Johnson from high office? Not for the student of history, at least.

The largest Empire the world has ever known was created by some very rum characters indeed. Today, the Duke of Wellington (whose instincts I am convinced would have accorded very much with my own when it comes to the media) would be doing time for attempted murder in respect of his duelling. Oliver Cromwell would be on trial at the Hague for his butchering of the Irish Catholics he considered mere ‘chaff’ to his sword. Edward Longshanks ‘Hammer of the Scots’, Francis Drake, Clive of India, Cecil Rhodes — the list is endless. I can confirm from my own experience that the reincarnated spirits of such men are far more likely to be found in Wormwood Scrubs than in the Cabinet.

The plundering of half the world’s natural resources from their legitimate owners and the systematic enslavement of entire populations were not achieved by ‘nice pieces of work.’

Is this to advocate a return to a more brutal age? Not so much as to seek cogency from sections of a media which are nostalgic  about Britain’s ‘glorious’ past and bitter about her relegation to miserable little backwater as they see it, whilst simultaneously pointing the finger at ‘nasty pieces of work.’

I have never once, in any form of election, voted for clowns from my own or my parents’ generation (many of whom I have met and known) so undeserving do I consider them of endorsement. So would I make an exception in the case of Mr Johnson?

This would depend on how much he has changed in the past couple of decades. It would depend on the extent to which he has become corrupted by a system which promotes mediocrity after mediocrity. It would depend on to what extent the types of ‘minders’ (who inevitably surround such individuals) will have reprogrammed him.

But when it comes to the Boris Johnson of the Eighties and early Nineties I knew so dearly then the answer is: yes, I would make an exception. And for this reason alone: his capacity for original thought.

The jokes and fun were all very well but the Boris Johnson I knew liked ideas and ideas are what we need now, more than at any time since World War II. The rest of the now prominent nonentities among our contemporaries – the politicians in particular – were simply incapable of ‘big’ or new ideas to an extent which, as a widely-travelled man, I have seen in no other society.

It is upon ideas therefore that I suggest he focus. Not on an office to which no honour attaches nor any real power. So, too, he must cherish the mother of his children and the family God has given to him.

A career has been made by pretending that Ian Hislop is actually funny and a general dumbing down. It is time to dumb up.

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