Boris Johnson can take on Nigel Farage
By Andrew Gimson
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Boris Johnson today reminds us that there is nowhere more beautiful than England in May. In his Telegraph column he describes, in the manner of a latter-day Jerome K. Jerome, a bicycle ride from London to Oxfordshire. It is a delightful Bank Holiday read.
And it has the other great advantage of keeping him off the political topic of the moment, which is how to deal with UKIP. Tories cannot help wondering which future leader might be able to reunite them with Conservative activists who have joined Nigel Farage’s party, and voters who support it.
Who, as it were, is the Farage of the Conservative party? Does it happen to possess a well-known man or woman who refuses to play the cautious game of the PPE graduates who lead the two main parties? Is there somewhere a Tory untainted by dreary political correctness, who is prepared to take risks and tell jokes? For in order to see off Farage, a person is required who sounds trenchant, independent-minded, staunchly Conservative, yet capable of appealing far beyond the ranks of signed-up Conservatives, not least because he or she has the ability to cheer people up, and appears to be fun to have a drink with.
Already the Mayor of London has begun to remind us how well suited he would be to perform the great service of bringing UKIP, the lost Tory tribe, back into the bosom of the Conservative Party. For in last Monday’s column, Boris declared, with characteristic optimism:
“Rather than bashing UKIP, I reckon Tories should be comforted by their rise – because the real story is surely that these voters are not turning to the one party that is meant to be providing the official opposition. The rise of UKIP confirms a) that a Tory approach is broadly popular and b) that in the middle of a parliament, after long years of recession, and with growth more or less flat, the Labour Party is going precisely nowhere…Now is not the time…to slag them [UKIP] off for appearing to think, in large part, what many Conservatives think.”
It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good. When the Tories want someone who can beat Farage, they are bound to wonder whether to turn to Boris.