Monday, 16 July
Boris will run. This news dominates the start of the political week. A tentative plan to go and sketch the Sedgefield by-election is scrapped and I begin ringing people to find out when and where we might catch a glimpse of Boris.
Quite unprecedentedly, television journalists start ringing me to ask if they can interview me about the new candidate for Mayor of London, mainly because I have devoted my few hours of leisure to writing a life of Johnson which has just appeared in paperback (Boris – The Rise of Boris Johnson, Pocket Books, £7.99). It happens, astonishingly, to be the only book of its kind on the market and although I make clear in my introduction that I am not attempting ‘to monopolise this colossus of our times”, I do find myself, however briefly, in the strange position of being slightly ahead of the field.
After dashing off an authoritative 700-word piece on Boris for thelondonpaper, I get on my bike and set out for City Hall. When I am halfway there thelondonpaper rings and says they found that my opening sentence – ‘Boris Johnson could become the greatest Mayor of London since Dick Whittington’– lacks balance.
They suggest adding the words ‘or the worst’to this. I am in a bit of a rush and have no wish to be seen as an uncritical admirer of Boris, so I at once agree to this minor change.
When I reach City Hall, dozens of photographers and reporters are already in attendance, with more arriving by the minute. Toby Young of The Spectator does an interview with me about Boris, which he records on some kind of video camera.
All five members of the guild of sketchwriters have turned out: Ann Treneman of The Times, Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail, Simon Carr of The Independent, Simon Hoggart of The Guardian and myself for the Daily Telegraph.
Boris arrives wheeling his bike and is enveloped by the biggest media scrum he can have experienced since denouncing Jamie Oliver at the Tory conference in Bournemouth. When the scrum has abated, I am interviewed by BBC News, Channel 4 News and Newsnight. Returning to the press gallery at the Commons, I find a clear division between people like me, who think Boris is a serious candidate with a good chance of winning this popularity contest, and those who regard him with utter derision. An experienced reporter says Boris is ‘a butterfly who will have his wings torn off’once the media get at him.
Tuesday, 17 July
This morning, the grandest woman in journalism, Polly Toynbee of The Guardian, denounces Boris as a ‘jester, toff, self-absorbed sociopath and serial liar”. I can’t remember when I enjoyed an article so much. What has Boris done to Polly? Didn’t she used to go out with one of his uncles, and mightn’t one call her a bit more of a toff than he is?
Wednesday, 18 July
Wednesday brings Prime Minister’s questions. David Cameron makes Gordon Brown look leaden, but perhaps solid leadership is what the public want. If so, Boris is in trouble. Cameron is also going through a tricky patch. One fears he may resort to the desperate measure of giving a long series of very dull speeches. He has the merit, like Boris, of having a sense of humour: when someone recently pointed out to Cameron that the two things Tory activists really love are grammar schools and nuclear power stations, he asked whether these should be co-located. But one does not woo commentators such as Polly Toynbee by having a sense of humour.
Thursday, 19 July
Today, I find Ken Livingstone has started reading my book about Boris and has described it as ‘the scariest thing I have read since Silence of the Lambs”. Good old Ken: perhaps like an ageing tennis star he will up his game and trounce the young challenger.
Friday, 20 July
As rain pours down this morning, the Telegraph asks me to listen to Lord Levy making a statement. I find him in a basement at his lawyers, Bindman and Partners, near King’s Cross, where he makes plain the agony which the cash for honours inquiry has caused him. The least Gordon Brown can do to heal these wounds, and to show the Labour party’s appreciation of an outstanding public servant, is to offer Lord Levy an hereditary earldom.