Get behind Boris to lead us to eccentricity

Wednesday, August 8, 2012
7:00 AM

The London 2012 Olympics has undoubtedly been good for the nauseatingly-named “brand Britain”.

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It is showing that when we can be bothered, we can organise with German efficiency and win with American ruthlessless.

But I think that the Olympics could be the launching pad for the return of something that has been sadly undervalued in recent years - great British eccentricity.

The opening ceremony was a showcase for the kind of quirkiness for which we used to be known.

I loved it. And I was even more delighted when I received messages from my American friends, slating the ceremony. If they had “got it”, it would have been a failure, not a triumph, for British idiosyncrasy. Thankfully, their irony bypass operation was a success.

Sadly, in the same way that the horrors of McDonald’s, “gangsta” strutting and the word “like” have spread across the Atlantic like a, like, virus, so has the tendency to misunderstand irony and undervalue unconventionality.

Times columnist Ben Macintyre calls it “conventionality-creep”.

And that sums it up nicely. For, as on the surface we enter an age of greater tolerance and acceptance, at the same time those who are genuinely different are seen as weird.

“Different” is fine - so long as your “different” is the same as everybody else’s “different”. Observe today’s teens to see how so many people express their individuality by dressing and speaking in the same style as one another.

All is well - as long as we march to the same drum beat as each other, express the same views and wear clothing appropriate to our age and status.

I am as safe and colourless as the majority of Britain’s clone army. But I long to march to a different drumbeat - however much it might embarrass my children.

And, after his latest very public but unplanned comedy routine, I think I might have found the man to lead me and others from the shores of safety to the challenging waters of whimsy.

Boris Johnson is the man to restore eccentricity to this nation.

Only Boris could have turned a zipwire calamity into a positive photo opportunity, which enhanced his reputation.

Can you imagine if it had been David Cameron or Ken Livingstone dangling in mid air? It’s a delicious thought, I know, but I think they would have struggled to see the funny side.

But Bozza simply hammed it up, making off-the-wall comments as his untamed hair swished like the tail of albino squirrel.

He always appears to have stumbled into, not deliberately dressed in, his suits. And his soundbites lack the prissy polish of the slimy-slick modern breed of politicians.

When you hear him speak, your body tenses and your toes curl as you wait for him to meander into a dead end or unwittingly prick the bubble of political correctness.

There is an increasing - and heartening - groundswell of opinion that would install Boris in Number 10.

I agree - but only if he renounces Conservatism and establishes the Eccentric Party.

In these grey and unnecessarily downbeat times, we need a leader to encourage us to take ourselves less seriously. And when he marches on Downing Street, I will don plus fours and a monocle and revel in a great renaissance.

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