Just as the media were looking for any signs of Vince Cable moving against Nick Clegg this week, so when we come to the Tory conference, there will be an even greater focus on Boris Johnson’s positioning vis a vis David Cameron.
Boris, and the possibility of him being the next Tory leader and PM, is definitely ‘out there’ as a prospect. In the past two days, at two post speech q and as, in both I was asked about that very possibility. It would have been interesting for the Boris media pack to have been there. Because before saying what I thought, I asked the audience what they thought. First, I asked for a show of hands in answer to the question ‘Who, a year ago, would have found the notion of Boris Johnson as PM a totally ludicrous proposition?’ At both the British Soft Drinks Association earlier in the week, and last night at the Women In Advertising and Communication London dinner, a sea of hands went up. At a rough guess, more than nine out of ten.
I then asked them to raise their hands if they still found it a ludicrous proposition, after his emergence into a bigger and more positive profile post Olympics. I was expecting a much smaller share of the hands to go up. But at the BDSA, I reckon eight out ten put their hands up, and at WACL, maybe 75 per cent.
This is not scientific but it does indicate the Boris appeal is as much about celebrity, comedy and size of character as it is about any real sense he could lead the country, no matter how badly the current leader is doing. Indeed, one questioner asked what does it say about Britain that we are even talking about him in those terms?
Remember too that both these events were in London. I suspect that outside the South East, the appeal is not as great, and the ludicrousness of the proposition factor greater. None of which will stop the media juggernaut around him chugging on. For my part, I would have said a year ago that it was impossible. I am now in the ‘unlikely but not impossible’ category. The possibility stems from his profile, seeming popularity and positivity. Apologies for all those Ps.
— Finally, many thanks to WACL for choosing MIND as their adopted charity, for allowing me to talk at length about the charity’s work and the Time to Change campaign, and for buying a copy of the Happy Depressive for the 350 guests. Some of the best creative minds in the country were in the room, and if only half a dozen of them decide to get involved in the campaign to change attitudes on mental health, that would make a difference. I hope they have done as I requested on getting to work, and taken a look at the Time to Change, MIND and Rethink Mental Illness websites.
Thanks too to Equinox, a London based charity helping drug addicts, alcoholics and the homeless who invited me earlier in the day to their Rocket to Recovery event. There were some amazing people telling inspiring stories of recovery. But so many of these services are under threat right now, as resources get tight and mental health goes to the back of the queue.