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By Harry Phibbs
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Some of Boris Johnson's old journalist colleagues may be feeling a bit jealous of the rock star adulation he enjoys. The Daily Mail columnist Sir Max Hastings is unlikely to provoke whoops of delight in the unlikely event that he should arrive at Birmingham's New Street Station.
Sir Max says:
If the day ever comes that Boris Johnson becomes tenant of Downing Street, I shall be among those packing my bags for a new life in Buenos Aires or suchlike, because it means that Britain has abandoned its last pretensions to be a serious country.
I have known the mayor for more than 20 years. He worked for me as EU correspondent of the Daily Telegraph and then as a columnist when I was the paper’s editor, and I have seen plenty of him since.
He is a magnificent journalist and showman. He proved himself the perfect maitre d’ for the London Olympics. But few maitre d’s are fit to cook the dinner.
During the time that Boris was EU correspondent he showed a healthy disrespect for the institution he was reporting on. His editor, Sir Max, had a different attitude – feeling that joining the Euro was a good idea and dismissing Eurosceptics as crazed xenophobes. Which of them has been better vindicated by subsequent events in terms of judgment?
But the attack from Sir Max is nothing new. When he went on to be Evening Standard editor he wrote an ill tempered editorial denouncing the Conservatives for having the temerity to select Boris as the candidate for Henley.
Also in the Daily Mail is a leader seeking to burst the Boris bubble:
As Boris fever grips the Tory Conference, the Mail has a word of advice for the party: calm down, dears, calm down.…
For the truth is that there is no realistic possibility of a change at the top this side of the election, when Mr Johnson will still have a year left of his mayoral term.
Indeed, if the Tories are serious about their future, they need to rally four-square behind David Cameron.
They might also consider that the talents demanded of a mayor and a prime minister are not necessarily the same.
This misses a number of points. Most Conservatives attending the Party Conference will be sufficiently well informed to realise that Mr Johnson is not an MP. They are clear that David Cameron will lead the Party into the General Election and are determined to secure his victory. The question is who should eventually succeed him after Mr Johnson has completed his term as Mayor of London.
So it is not a question of Boris Johnson challenging David Cameron. It is question of whether Mr Johnson should succeed Mr Cameron in a few years time.
As for the patronising advice to "calm down" the great thing about Borismania is that it extends beyond Conservative Party activists, or indeed the media. There is huge popularity for Boris among the general public.
Still "set 'em up, knock 'em down" is the natural rhythm of the media.