Johnson steals limelight from Cameron at victory parade


Boris Johnson and David Cameron. The mayor of London eclipsed the PM as the government’s face of London 2012. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesJohnson steals limelight from Cameron at victory parade

10 September 2012

London mayor capped a summer in the limelight when he appeared to reduce David Cameron to an awkward bystander




Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent

Boris Johnson stole the show at the parade for the Olympics and Paralympics as the London mayor capped a summer in the limelight when he appeared to reduce David Cameron to a slightly awkward bystander.

The crowds cheered and the prime minister clapped awkwardly as Johnson hailed Britain's athletes for producing "paroxysms of tears and joy on the sofas of Britain" – inspiring both the current generation and the next in the process.

In a speech by the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace, the London mayor even persuaded the crowd to cheer G4S as he reeled off a list of workers that had made the Games such a success.

Johnson, who was flanked by Princess Anne, was rewarded when the evening television bulletins devoted more time to him than to Cameron who delivered a more pedestrian speech a few minutes earlier. Cameron only made it onto the BBC's 6pm television news by agreeing to duck out of a party at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre to make a live appearance.

Downing Street said the prime minister was supremely relaxed about Johnson's performance. But in a sign of the rivalry that dates back to their days together at Eton and Oxford, one source said: "Serious times call for serious people." This was seen as a snub to the London mayor who is regarded in No 10 as more of a showbiz star than a political heavyweight.

The media attention will delight Johnson who in turn regards the prime minister as an intellectual lightweight. When he was appointed editor of the Spectator in 1999 Johnson used to take great delight in saying that his degree in Classics had landed him one of the greatest jobs in journalism while his great rival was a mere PR executive at Carlton Television.

The success of Johnson, who has ambitions to succeed Cameron as Tory leader, came as the prime minister faces renewed pressure at Westminster. Tory MPs are beginning to look to a future beyond Cameron, though any challenge is not serious at this stage. There is also little support at Westminster for Johnson who is seen as something of an outsider. At least two MPs are understood to have approached Bob Stewart, the Tory MP for Beckenham, to stand as a "stalking horse" against Cameron.

Stewart rebuffed the approach which was designed not to unseat Cameron but to serve as a warning that he needs to replace George Osborne, who was booed at the Olympic Stadium last week. One Tory said: "We accept that David Cameron is our best electoral asset. But George is fast becoming a major liability."

In his speech Johnson did acknowledge Cameron by praising the way in which the prime minister said it was right to pay tribute to all the workers who helped make the Games such a success.

But he then immediately upstaged the prime minister by managing to persuade the crowd to cheer workers from the beleaguered G4S. "So, yes, we say thanks to the armed service and the police and G4S – all the G4S workers yes – and the transport workers and the tens of thousands of volunteers, the London ambassadors and the games makers and the TfL staff."

The crowd shouted "Yes" as Johnson praised the athletes for winning more medals than the French, German and Australian teams.

He added: "Above all you brought home the truth about us and about this country: that when we put our minds to it there is no limit to what Britain can achieve. You have made everybody very proud, you have given hope for the future and, on behalf of all the people of London, I say thank you with all my heart."

Source: The Guardian UK



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