SKETCH: Boris in Parliament

What a life it is, in politics. Having to satisfy the craving, constantly chasing a dragon.

So, Boris Johnson – the proconsular celebrity – appeared in front of the Communities and Local Government committee.

Had they asked him to declare his interests he might have confessed to the Aga Khan’s hospitality, a Hollywood superpass, oligarchical love interests.

But the committee were more interested in declaring their own interests. They said, a little competitively: I’m vice president of the local government association. I’ve got two members of staff of who are local councillors in Newcastle. My husband is leader of a district council.

Fair play to Boris for sticking it out. A man like him with all his assets and interests applying himself to local government fiscal devolution. Having to answer to these sober, worthy vegans, sitting it out for forty minutes discussing the suite of five metropolitan property taxes, council tax bands, a reset mechanism five years into the rationalization of the business rate structure – and all without recourse to alcohol.

He wore that private, complicit smile to let them know that despite their different stations in life, they were in on the same joke.

He flattered them by coming unprepared, to repeat the one point he’d got under his belt.

Let London keep its property taxes and there’ll be a Laffer boom in Treasury revenues.

That was the matter.

The manner was, well what the matter was, the matter was, let me say what the, incorrigible truth to tell, it would be fair to say, that the manner of it would easily, as we’d all agree, look, clearly, the many ways that we’d want to stress, it is narcoleptically plain, as to not, as to not need, as to not need the . . .

He does lack conciseness. When you’re not in the room with him, and there’s a screen between you and his tousled physical charms, it becomes more obvious. He’s not what you’d call prime ministerial.

Mind you, I’ve been wrong about Boris before.

In questioning: one of the committee got him to admit that business rates would go down and residential rates would go up.

And that a mansion tax was out but higher banding rates would be desirable.

At my age, there isn’t time to take an interest in this.

Clive Betts, the chairman, landed quite a surprise punch at the end. He’d said that Cameron was thinking of scrapping business rates altogether and replacing it with a local sales tax. “You have the advantage of knowing what the prime minister is thinking,” Boris said, and Betts returned: “I’m no closer to the prime minister than you are.”

Straight down the tramlines, Boris didn’t even try to reach it.

John Prescott was the Labour party’s Id. Boris is the Conservative party’s superego.


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