I was going to write about Boris, but it occurred to me that timing’s against me (could you bear another word?), plus, when everything to say can be expressed as a computer algorithm:

if{no Tory majority in 2015} then {

leadership election ← Boris

outcome(leadership election) ≠ Boris

} else {

junior job ← Boris

outcome(junior job) = Bored Boris #invoke TV career subroutine


then I doubt I’ve much to add. But what about London AB (After Boris)? What should we do then?

In Tuesday’s Financial Times, Janan Ganesh wrote one of his typically insightful (that makes it sound awful, but praise always does, I don’t know why – anyway, I think Janan is one of the most generous, excellent commentators out there) columns, in which he reminded Conservatives that Boris is a one-off (a “non-scalable model”, in his perfect phrase), and that even while he defeated socialism in two mayoral elections, our vote in the capital continued to wither, for the reasons with which we’re all familiar (and if you’d forgotten them, Baroness Warsi reminded you about them in her resignation last week).

Janan’s prescription is a sort of Orange-book liberalism, to harness the individualistic spirit of the post-Thatcher (post-racial) generation. I’m not convinced this is sufficient – it’s quite probably necessary. But not sufficient by itself.

Because (I suspect) there’s an emotional need captured by Conservatism which quite transcends a political manifesto, and asking those of us with such a disposition to rid ourselves of our fearful natures would be like asking Boris to keep one of his promises (I’ll never stand for Parliament while I’m Mayor of London!), or a gay Anglican priest not to have sex with his long-term civil partner. You can mouth the words, you can repeat the instruction, you can act out the part that others want you to show…for a while. But where the heart doesn’t tilt, action rarely follows.

My point is that on black dog days, when I think everything is getting worse, and nothing is getting better (“so what’s the bloody point”) – I still feel like “me.” I also sense, and this is why I can’t quite sign up to Janan’s agenda, that it’s a large part of my Toryism. It’s not wrong to feel nostalgic, or despair for those things we have lost: and a world where no-one ever has a sense of regret would not only be intolerable, it’s also politically inconceivable.

However, black dog is real, but not the master: he cohabits with a beast of quite a different nature, whose defining characteristic is sunny optimism. That optimism can be sparked by actual sunshine, along with…well, you know: catching sight of lovers in a cafe, shyly daring themselves to meet the other’s eye. Plunging into the sea at Brighton. Waking up and remembering “I’m not alone, anymore: he is here.” At those moments, sunshine wins the day and I’m as Jananian a liberal as you could design.

Maybe you feel something similar? Or is it just me?

Well, I’m the one who’s writing this, so allow me the luxury of assuming it isn’t just me. Assume further that I’m actually a bog-standard typical Conservative, a mixture of gloom for what has gone and optimism for the future.

I think we’ll fail (in London, with new Britons, in the North, with women, yadda yadda yadda – everywhere, wherever the pollsters seek to pretend that such random characteristics define “you” more than the map of your hidden psychology) to the extent that we pretend that either component is inauthentic; that we can force ourselves to play one part, or the other, for ever. Two horses pull the Tory chariot: the trick is not to allow either to pull us out of kilter.

Let black dog win the day, and you end up with Ukip, screaming about immigrants and affecting surprise that “ex” Nazis are attracted by their (black) dog whistle. Pretend to be a big-L liberal, and you’ll drive yourself demented by pretending that street crime is a function of poverty, and can all be fixed by just one more pull on the big spending lever.

21st century Tories won’t look like Victorians. But we’ll be successful when we learn to inhabit our true selves, and stop apologising for being a mass of contradictions. So are the voters, man; so are the voters.

But what do I know. Maybe it’s just me. Down, boy. I said: down.


Ok, just one last point about Bojo: his real talent, of course, is in attracting those people who can’t quite believe they’re voting Tory, even as they mark their X next to his name. Scalable or not, it seems a shame that such a talent is likely to be wasted in one of suburban London’s safe Tory seats. It would be a more fitting return to Parliament for him to take a seat off Labour.

Who dares wins (and he who doesn’t dare?) A winner should dare more than to elbow a local Tory aside.