At a very unfunny time economically, we have had the opportunity to judge and compare a number of leading politicians through the manner of their reponse, words and body language, to the Budget. The contrasts have been extreme.
Alastair Darling was always on a losing wicket. Virtually nothing he could say would satisfy anyone. Given this a speech ‘that plumbed new depths of boredom….which wasn’t oratory, it was corporate corridor carpet by the yard’ was possibly the best approach. It took the energy from the response, ‘ the numbed Tories were not even bothering to groan’.
Darling was not helped by Gordon Brown. He seemed to be totally unaware that, during the speech, the TV cameras captured his every expression from crumpled morose to ‘goofy visage and vast banana grin’. Contrast this with his confident, smiling, well made-up self when, during G20, he was in the limelight!
Together they made an easy target for Cameron. He did not destroy the budget speech but he had some great lines, ‘a government of the living dead’, and delivered them with an energy and certainty that dismissed his opponents. Sadly, his support act , George Osborne, whilst sharing the clean- cut fresh looks, lacks the animation.
Compare and contrast all of these with Boris,( subject of an in- depth interview by Geordie Greig in the Evening Standard), whose very real sense of humour is a defining characteristic. ‘ A year after becoming Mayor, Boris can still be very funny…. he is a combination of chuckle-and-awe or charm-and-disarm, the populist with intellectual smarts.’
Is he a serious politician? Undoubtedly, but it is his humour that could make life uncomfortable for his opponent should he bid for leadership. Who else, when asked if being Mayor is a dress rehearsal for No 10, would say: “If like Cincinnatus I were to be called from my plough, then obviously it would be wrong of me not to help out”.