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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 October 2006, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Why do they put up with Boris?
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

So exactly why does David Cameron let Boris go on being Boris - careering through life upsetting Liverpudlians, the Scots, the entire nation of Papua New Guinea and now, sin of sins, Jamie Oliver?

Boris Johnson
Mr Johnson speaks for a section of party
The question answers itself. Along with Kylie, Caprice, Elvis and Arnie, Mr Johnson is identified simply by his first name.

In an age obsessed with celebrity - the Jordan and Gazza culture where politics has become showbiz for the ugly - fame, not achievement, is all that counts.

And Boris is the closest thing to a celebrity the new-look, in-touch Tory party has got. The reception he received at the hands of delegates when he addressed the debate on whether Jamie Oliver is a national hero was enough evidence of that.

For every voter that winces when he "gaffes", there are others who embrace him as a genuine free-thinker of which there should be many more in politics. And, in any case, he is fun.

He is regularly on the telly charged with the task of entertaining us by simply being himself - and he never disappoints.

'We love it'

He is a Personality who speaks his mind, sometimes doesn't mean quite what he says or appears to say, but shows absolutely no sign he can or would wish to change.

Indeed, he risked more criticism during the debate when he suggested Kit Kats and Ribena were junk food and lamented the fact it was no longer acceptable to call people fatso.

One answer to questions about Boris's value came early on during David Cameron's speech.

The Tory leader got a joke out of the whole episode before saying blond Henley MP's presence in his top team showed the party was not like New Labour, not control freaks and didn't mind if people went off message.

"We love it actually," said Mr Cameron before quickly adding: "Just try not to do it all the time."

News vacuum

Boris has, of course, been sacked before - but for his personal life rather than any remarks - and was previously warned by his current party bosses that he had to choose either a career in light entertainment and journalism, or politics.

He chose the latter and was appointed shadow minister for higher education (students must love him).

During his recent encounter with the press pack at the Tories' conference in Bournemouth a press minder was asked whether Boris was about to say something to the waiting reporters and photographers, all gripped by the feeding frenzy that is sparked by a news vacuum.

"He's told us he has no intention of saying anything - but you know Boris, who can tell," he replied with a mixture of despair and amused resignation.

As William Hague said, a political party does not have to be a monolithic organisation

The truth is, of course, Boris is more than the Tory maverick who can always be relied on to put his foot in it and give the media a story.

Like deputy Labour leader John Prescott, he represents a large section of his party and says the sort of things many of them want said.

Tony Blair reacted to John Prescott's fight with a voter by declaring: "John is John". William Hague responded to Boris' latest gaffe by saying: "Boris is Boris".

He is a safety valve for the leadership who can also point to their indulgence of his antics as a sign of what a democratic, open-minded, inclusive party they are running.

As William Hague said, a political party "does not have to be a monolithic organisation". Especially not when, it has to be said, it is quite difficult to find anyone who actually dislikes Boris.

So Boris will stay. And politics will probably be the better for it. It will certainly be more entertaining.

Boris slams Jamie's food crusade
03 Oct 06 |  Politics

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