Boris is the incarnation of bumptiousness as an election-winning trait. On the left as much as the right he earns approbation for his affable, lads-on-tour demeanour. So it makes sense, unlike Ken, strongly to affirm the political personality throughout his party election broadcast (PEB).
Boris’s PEB is resolute in its ambition to sell Boris-the-man – the man who spent his youth smashing up posh restaurants with the men who are now atop government. Or, as the campaign would have it, the man who has close links to government and who’ll get “a better deal for London” from it. (Because presumably the coalition so despise all other mayoral candidates that they would deprive Londoners of what they need and have democratically requested should any other candidate be elected.)
And it is relatively successful. Shots of Boris staring wistfully out of windows or on the tube ‘working’ play to Boris-the-cheery-but-committed Mayor of London, even if they are a little self-indulgent. Indeed, that he is the incumbent Mayor is highlighted. Two years ago our ailing economy required a change of government; now, apparently, it requires stasis. But political predilections aside, stressing incumbency when you’ve not done anything particularly ridiculous is often electorally prudent.
Though there are attempts to moderate Boris the man, which seek to downplay the Tory boy criticisms he so readily invites. “It is a job that is nobody’s by right”, he declares (as if we needed to be told). It is the “most important job I will do”, he continues. And this is deft. It proposes a humble alternative to a Labour candidate who has spent his life governing London and can come across as someone returning to reclaim his turf.
But ultimately Boris still seems a bit oafish and out of touch. His interaction with the people of London is contrived and only cursory. You can almost imagine him bumbling his way around London forcing himself and his camera crew on unsuspecting Londoners. There is a brilliant moment halfway in (1.16) where the person (on whom Boris has obviously just pounced) darts a pleading look at her friend while Boris charges on oblivious.
So focusing on Boris’s character that, for some inexplicable reason, afforded him the largest personal mandate in British electoral history four years ago is politically expedient as well as entertaining. But this PEB treads a very fine line between this and crass self-indulgence – and the music doesn’t help.