"Neil Kinnock's momentary soaking on Brighton beach in 1983 was used against him for a decade to demonstrate his haplessness. Boris suspended, close up, from a zip-wire, his legs dangling helplessly, for a full five minutes, on the contrary represents what could happen to any of us. He's a sport. He's the hero of the age of the ice-bucket challenge".
- David Aaronovitch, Boris is winning over even old sceptics like me, The Times, 12 March
I owe our Dave a debt of gratitude for his column today, since it allows me to once again go over some of the themes I've been discussing recently and to chainsaw them into something resembling a point.(Reproduced in comments below, as the Times is paywalled).
I'll shorterise Dave, who is astonished to discover that not only do people generally quite like Boris Johnson, to the point where BJ might even end up Prime Minister, but Dave really quite likes him too.
This, Dave concludes, is because Boris is very charismatic - such a really, jolly nice bloke that few of us can help but think well of him, unlike that Kinnock geezer who was so roundly mocked. Which is an interesting theory, I suppose, but it's not quite as revealing as it is to note the possibilities that don't occur to Dave.
An example - is it perhaps possible that Boris gets off with his public buffooneries whereas e.g. Kinnock didn't, not merely because Boris is such a bang-on, stand-up guy but also - at least in part - because Boris is mates with half the newspaper editors, owners and media figures in the land?
Which is to say, is it possible that a lot of people who wield a fair bit of influence in the UK believe that Boris would serve their interests, were he to ever gain a position of real power, and that those people go out of their way to ensure that he's perceived in a good light?
I know how crazily unlikely it sounds, but I throw this out as a suggestion. While I'm sure that Boris would comfortably survive the kind of merciless daily arse-pounding press coverage that, say, Nick Clegg has endured for the last five years and still come up smiling, it's surely worth considering the possibility that he might not.
Or to make a more direct comparison, I note that Boris's zip-line larks were depicted across the following day's papers as a bit of jolly good fun by an all-round good egg of a proper nice geezer.
Meanwhile, e.g. Ed Miliband can't so much as eat a sandwich without being instantly castrated and paraded dickless and ball-less on TV, as flashing headlines holler "Ridiculous Risible Retard Red Ed Can't Even Fucking Eat" at the populace for the next fortnight.
And we might say Yes, but Ed does seem to be a bit weird, doesn't he?
And while that's undoubtedly true, it's also fairly apparent that on nine out of ten UK high streets, Boris would barely be able to pull off a convincing pretence of being a human being, let alone a statesman.
From Tain to Torquay, Boris comes off like a bizarre HBO alien sporting a set of enormous flourescent genitals waggling on his forehead, and that's before he so much as opens his mouth to emit his usual chirrups and hoots. Any serious attempt to install him in Number 10 would be taken up here not as a sign that it was time to secede from the Union, so much as one that it was time to erect a coast-to-coast steel barrier covered in barbed wire and machine-guns, just to keep the lunatics the fuck out.
And the same could be said for much of the rest of the Tory party. Being charitable, I'd say that it's obvious to all that George Osborne has the dead, soulless eyes of a man who keeps a locked room in his house full of sinisterly pristine china dolls, and that he personally possesses all the warmth and charisma of a serial sex offender in a Chelsea strip.
Hell, Jacob Rees-Mogg, whose grandest achievement this week was bewailing the possibility that MPs might have to suffer cutlery made from non-precious metals, looks like a teenage poisoner with intense, incestuous obsessions, but you seldom hear it mentioned.
And this works for the opposition, too - Tony Blair's rampaging egomania and aggressive mentalism were never difficult to discern and yet seem somehow to have passed by the pundit class until the point where New Labour's intramural squabbles became a liability. His replacement's glowering persona was popularly portrayed as a positive, until the very moment it became clear that he possessed all the electoral appeal of oral herpes at a finger-buffet.
Which leads me to conclude that contrary to Dave's belief, Boris might be "charismatic" not so much due to his personal qualities, but more because a lot of people, including Dave's boss, have decreed that it is so.
At least until it's necessary for him not to be, that is.
And what of Dave himself, who unwisely rounds off his column by comparing Boris Johnson to Cincinnatus, as opposed to the Roman political figure that he more closely resembles?*
Why is Dave astonished to discover that he himself likes Boris so much?
Well, if a Guardian columnist suddenly declared that he was just mystified by the full extent of his love for Ed Miliband, he'd be immediately deafened by shouts of "It's because you work for the Guardian, you dick. Your salary depends upon it".
Call me cynical, but you have to suspect that if Dave was the kind of guy likely to raise serious objections to posh dickheads who have the backing of the nation's political and media elite then he wouldn't be working for the Times, but would instead be cranking out columns about intersectionality at a fiver a throw for Comment Is Free.
*This joke copyright Joe McNally.