The mayor of London's blond ambition, Greece's new foreign affairs stance and Poland goes to the polls.
Boris Johnson, mayor of London, should be the most hated public figure in class-fixated Britain. His posh procession through Eton, Oxford, Times, Daily Telegraph, The Spectator (a magazine), the House of Commons and City Hall has been conducted with enraging insouciance, to say nothing of a demeanour and accent that PG Wodehouse would have toned down in the second draft. Yet poll after poll finds Johnson, 50, by far the most popular politician in the country. Key to his success has been a refusal to talk, act or dress like his colleagues or rivals. The eternal question is whether Johnson’s (clearly endearing) idiosyncrasies are ungovernable instinct or populist contrivance. His most recent biographer, Sonia Purnell, author of Just Boris: A Tale of Blond Ambition, is among those who believe the latter.
“Nothing, including his appearance and even his ‘gaffes’, is unrehearsed,” she says. “The messy hair is artfully arranged before the cameras arrive.”
In May’s election, Johnson will almost certainly return to parliament. Despite his repeated self-mocking denials, nobody doubts that Johnson sees his final political destination as 10 Downing Street. It remains to be seen whether or not he has oversold the charming bungler schtick that propelled him to his present position. “When Boris started courting the right of the Tory party to boost his leadership chances, the hair got cut and combed, the suits got cleaned up and the bike largely disappeared from view,” says Purnell. “This version of Boris is all about proving he can be the serious statesman as opposed to the genial bumbler.”
Since Syriza was elected in Greece earlier this year, most of the focus has been on the economy. Yet the party also has views on defence and foreign affairs that sway from the mainstream.
Is Greece adopting friendlier ties with Russia?
Greece has had a longstanding relationship with Russia. Greece and Europe have a lot to gain in improving relations and being a bridge between US and Russia where more dialogue, peaceful initiatives and less violence are needed. We are going to play that role as a Nato, EU and western country. Greece is a bridge between continents and between cultures and people, and can play a role as a peaceful mediator.
How do you intend to establish and enhance these bridges?
Firstly through speaking, then through our tourism and their energy. The sanctions are harming our farming and we want to overcome that. Also with stability: to the north we have the Ukrainian crisis, to the west the expanding Libyan war and, lastly, the Palestinian question and Syrian civil war. Right in the middle of this triangle is Greece. The country has no choice, it must mediate to bring stability.
Your party once called for the shutdown of foreign military bases. We never said we would shut down Nato bases pre-electorally but instead that we will work hard to dissolve the Nato alliance when historically it is no longer needed. This is a strategic question that is open but not a priority at this point.
Swansea’s new £1bn (€1.4bn) plan for the world’s first tidal energy lagoon aims to power 120,000 homes in Wales by 2018. It’s estimated that six lagoons across the country could cater for 8 per cent of the UK’s needs.