Richard North, 23/06/2019  

A detail in The Times story on Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson's latest shenanigans is an excellent indicator of the sort of man we are dealing with. "He parks illegally outside the flat and there were 'three tickets' on his windshield", a neighbour said (of his car). "It's got loads of parking tickets on it. He just leaves it here. He doesn't care".

Interestingly, Johnson has form on this. In an article written about his former career as a motoring journalist for GQ Magazine, his then-editor, Dylan Jones, said that Johnson's column was "probably the most costly in the magazine's history, due to the sheer amount of parking tickets and fines he accrued on his test vehicles".

To put this fully in perspective, however, one must go back to a report from September 2013 in the Evening Standard, headlined: "Parking fines on roads controlled by Mayor Boris Johnson rise 14 percent to £72m".

Transport for London, under the control of the Mayor, had issued 553,000 penalty charge notices, mainly for parking offences - a rise of 67,000 on the previous year.This was, apparently, despite pressure from ministers to be more lenient with motorists.

Furthermore, it was the first rise in the annual number of tickets issued by TfL since the first full year in office of Johnson, who had previously criticised his predecessor for presiding over a "mountain" of fines.

That, incidentally, had been in 2010, when Johnson had said of Ken Livingstone's policy: "I think it's outrageous - this mentality of clobbering the motorist. Ken Livingstone is like that dragon in the Hobbit, Smaug, and he's surrounded by a huge mountain of fines".

Three things emerge from this. Firstly, Johnson has no respect for the law. Secondly, he is an egregious hypocrite, complaining of one thing only then to do nothing about it once in office. Thirdly, he displays the arrogance seen all too often in our politicians, where he seems to believe that the law only applies to the "little people", and not to those born to rule, such as himself.

In other respects, this issue illustrates the other face of the "cuddly" Mr Johnson. During his tenure as Mayor, TfL was notorious for its rapacious use of bailiffs to enforce fines, sending out bailiffs every two minutes on average to collect money from drivers who had failed to pay the congestion charge.

Although using bailiffs was intended to be a measure of last resort, pressure groups condemned the sheer scale of visits, amid claims of harassment and intimidation, many of which – even in our distorted system – were upheld. Yet, when challenged directly over a particularly bad example, all he could do was bleat about it being an "isolated case".

Looking further at recent events, it really is quite remarkable that almost all the national newspapers devoted their front pages yesterday to reports of Johnson's spat with his paramour, and the Sunday papers are on the case again today. The detail drowns out any policy discussions on Brexit and there we are really none the wiser.

Needless to say, The Sunday Telegraph is doing its best to defend their man, while the Observer is taking advantage of the "gift" to savage a man who is described by his own advisers as a "grade one liability". But the fact that Johnson has been shepherded by "minders" over the last weeks to keep him out of trouble surely has to say something about a man who would be prime minister.

Particularly entertaining, but also of great relevance, is an article setting out quotes from those who have known him well and "questioned his suitability for high office".

One damning quote comes from Chris Patten in a May interview with Bloomberg, where he says: "He's lied his way through life, he's lied his way through politics, he’s a huckster with a degree of charm to which I am immune. As well as being mendacious he's incompetent".

And just as a reminder of the Midas touch from golden boy "Boris", one might recall his ill-conceived purchase of water cannon, acquired for £322,000 without a license to use them on the mainland. They were subsequently sold for £11,000 after the police had been banned from using them.

For every episode involving Johnson, though, there are those who will spring to his defence. There is no known limit to the extent to which his supporters will discount his wrong-doing, or find excuses for him. Currently, his allies are accusing "aggressive, Leftie" neighbours of orchestrating a "stitch-up" which has catapulted his personal life into the headlines.

Nevertheless, The Sunday Times seems to have come off the fence, with at least seven stories on Johnson, as well as an opinion piece from Dominic Lawson, who tells us: "It matters if Boris has no care for money".

This is an allusion to Johnson's paramour's comments about him being "spoilt", and yes it does matter, in the same way that it matters that he doesn't pay his parking tickets.

The worrying thing about the newspaper coverage, though, is that there is barely a word about Johnson's Brexit policy. And while one can clearly accept that the personal life of a candidate for the office of prime minister is a matter of legitimate public concern, one can only wish that the legacy media could devote as much space to the policy debate.

However, there are some indications that this ostensibly trivial affair could end Johnson's political ambitions. A Mail on Sunday` poll currently puts Jeremy Hunt three points ahead of his rival. On Thursday, 36 percent of respondents saw Johnson as the best prime minister, with Mr Hunt on 28 percent, but a Saturday poll saw Mr Hunt jump to 32 percent, with Johnson on 29 percent.

And we may not yet have seen the last of this affair. The Mail on Sunday, in its lead story, reports that Johnson's paramour, Carrie Symonds, is "too scared to go home" after the argument with her boyfriend.

The 31-year-old, the report goes, "is already struggling after receiving hate mail at her flat in Camberwell, south London, while her street has been plastered with anti-Boris posters". A source says that: "Carrie really doesn't feel safe in her own home anymore with anti-Boris leaflets and posters stuck up on the road, hand-delivered hate mail and now her private conversations being taped through the walls".

One has little sympathy for Symonds. If you play with fire, you tend to get burnt and it takes little intelligence to work out that any relationship with Johnson can only end up badly. But even if the story is a Guardianista "stitch-up", as has been claimed, it will be a sort of rough justice if it does bring Johnson down.

Bluntly, though, there are so many issues with this man, that one could identify any number which add to the conviction that the man is unfit for high office. Personally, I would not even employ him as a street sweeper.

And if "People don't want to hear about that kind of thing", as Johnson asserted in yesterday's hustings, this is again an indication of his lack of judgement. The sheer volume of media stories and the "most read" listings say otherwise.

It will be so ironic if he who lives by the "pen" dies by that same instrument, brought down by members of the same debased clan, for reasons which have nothing directly to do with politics.

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