HENRY DEEDES listens to the Bumbling Boris of old
Like a Reliant Robin on worn tyr
Like a Reliant Robin on worn tyres, he tried to swerve the topic of his girlfriend 23 TIMES: HENRY DEEDES listens to the Bumbling Boris of old
Yowzers! Where to start with Boris Johnson’s bungling appearance on the wireless yesterday morning?
He staggered, he guffawed, he waved his arms. At times, he flapped and flailed so desperately he was like a toddler at the local swimming baths who’s just given his rubber-ring the slip.
Twenty-three. That was the number of times he refused to answer questions on that slushy, clearly stage-managed photograph of him canoodling in a Sussex field with his youthful paramour, Carrie Symonds, which mysteriously appeared on Monday following the couple’s late-night domestic on Friday.
Boris Johnson was put under pressure to answer questions about his private life during his appearance on LBC with Nick Ferrari this morning but he refused
That’s 11 more times than then home secretary Michael Howard dodged Jeremy Paxman’s question about over-ruling a prison chief during the famous 1997 Newsnight interview.
More from Henry Deedes for the Daily Mail...
In a way, this was a welcome return to form for Boris.
Over the past few weeks, he’s been giving us sketchwriters a serious case of the jitters. During the very few public appearances he’s made, he has attempted to be statesman-like. Disciplined. Dull.
There have been moments when I have seriously wondered whether his Aussie strategist Sir Lynton Crosby had chained him to a radiator somewhere and sent out an actor in one of those latex masks worn in Mission: Impossible.
Here, in a studio in London’s Leicester Square, we got to see the Bumbling Boris of old. He had agreed to appear on LBC with Nick Ferrari, an ex-red-top tabloid hack with the bon vivant’s appearance and ringmaster’s delivery.
That photo: Mr Johnson and Ms Symonds broke cover in a photo - published exclusively by MailOnline - that showed them looking happy and were holding hands in the Sussex countryside on Sunday
As the faders went up, Ferrari was goading his guest for chickening out of last night’s cancelled TV debate. The word ‘pathetic’ was used. ‘Oh, honestly!’ came a muffled wail from Boris’s direction.
Ferrari asked his interviewee if he was a coward.
‘Well, Nick.’ Cough, Cough. ‘I am here on your show and would really like to tell people what I would like to do for our country…’
Yes, we’ll get to that, but are you a coward? ‘Now, look here…’
Boris’s Rubenesque frame was wedged snugly into a swivel chair, his head swamped by a pair of oversized ear-cans. At regular intervals, the studio camera caught him nervily scrawling large squiggles on a jotting pad.
‘Now I’d like to ask you...’ Ferrari continued. ‘Probably don’t have to, huh, huh, huh,’ Boris interrupted, emitting a throaty Bernard Manning cackle.
We soon came to the thorny issue of Boris’s row with his girlfriend.
Ferrari suggested that as a journalist, the wannabe PM must surely appreciate that his private life is of interest.
‘Huh, huh, huh. Well, you’ve bowled me some fast ones over the years, Nick,’ Boris stuttered, swerving the issue more clumsily than a Reliant Robin on a worn-out pair of Pirellis. Attention soon turned to that ridiculous photograph. Where did it come from? ‘Look, the longer we spend…’
Boris Johnson MP, Conservative leadership favourite and PM hopeful, leaves his Camberwell home
Where did it come from, Mr Johnson?
‘The longer we spend on extraneous...’
‘Is it actually you or Ed Sheeran?
‘Huh, huh, huh…’
‘Did you know the picture of you had been taken?’
‘Well, there are lots of pictures of me in the public domain…’
‘Tell us where it came from.’
‘No! Why should I?!’
Ferrari squeezed him on details as to when the photo was taken.
‘Oh, this interview is now descending into farce!’ his guest wailed.
Ferrari insisted the snap was not, as Boris’s team claimed, taken over the weekend, after the domestic bust-up, but some time previously. And the interviewer reckoned he had irrefutable proof.
It was the famous Johnson mop hair, Ferrari informed him. It was much longer in the photo than it is now. So it must have been taken before Boris’s usual Turkish barber had smartened him up for his leadership campaign.
Boris Johnson out campaigning in Richmond as part of his bid to become the next leader of the Conservative Party
‘Ah, well, ah, hmmm, well you see, you’re wrong about that,’ retorted Boris, gobbling the bait faster than a farmed trout as he jabbed a stubby forefinger at his inquisitor.
‘Unfortunately I no longer have my hair cut by the Turkish chap. I now have my haircut by a very nice person called Kelly…or possibly Tamara.’
How long ago was that?
‘Er... Don’t know. You’ll have to ask Kelly or Tamara… Oh, this is beyond satire…’
Fit to be prime minister? Search me.
All I know is that any more of this horse-play over the coming weeks can only make my job easier.