To his credit, Lynton Crosby managed to keep London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson away from trouble for most of his re-election campaign while the unfortunate Ken Livingstone got most of the stick, the only notable exception being when the blond swore at a BBC interviewer after Tim Donovan had asked questions about his record (ie had done his job).
And most interviewers have played ball since, letting Bozza waffle about what he chooses and spin the most outrageous whoppers without getting put on the spot over them. But the wheels started to come off the wagon earlier this month at People’s Question Time in Catford, when he was roundly barracked and lost his rag with one questioner who accused him of cowardice.
Then, this morning, came what Bozza must have thought would be another softball breeze: a chat on The Andy Marr Show (tm). After all, he’d been on so many times before, Marr had always indulged his vanity and buffoonery, and it wasn’t even going to be the main man this time, but mild-mannered stand-in Eddie Mair. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, rather a lot could, and did, go wrong. Mair turned out not to have signed up to the school of softball interviewing, opening with a grilling on whether Bozza wanted to be Prime Minister. And if he thought that was bad, it was promptly followed up with a reminder that he had been fired by the Times for lying, well, making up a quote. He had merely “mildly sandpapered” the article.
And that was that – except it wasn’t: Mair then pored over Bozza lying (again), this time to Michael Howard about his affair with Petronella Wyatt (which got him sacked from the opposition front bench). He really didn’t want to talk about that (no surprise there), or about his phone conversation with Darius Guppy where his pal solicited an address from Bozza so he could have someone beaten up.
“What does that say about you?” asked Mair. While Boris flannelled and tried to “oo-er” his way out of that, his inquisitor followed up with “Making up quotes, lying to your party leader, being part of someone being assaulted – you're a nasty piece of work”. Bozza feebly countered with “I’d rather not talk about that ... why don’t we talk about something else?” and then started to lose his cool.
That’s understandable, given he knew the Mayor Jolly Goodfun (as the Guardian’s Dave Hill calls it) act was unravelling live on TV. Young Dave, and anyone else in the Tory Party with leadership aspirations, will know that if Johnson falls apart so easily under pressure, he can’t call himself a real candidate for the Top Job. Cameron will be laughing all the way to the credibility Bank.
But Bozza’s cred has run out, and unlike Cyprus, there’s no chance of a bail-out.