Before we go any further, in relation to the headline: no, it’s not not because they are both middle-aged men who experienced weight problems. Although it’s worth stating again an incredible fact about Boris Johnson: he is the only person I have ever come across that looks fatter in real life than on television. The truism about “the camera adds a stone” is actually correct for the vast majority of the human race, yet the reverse applies to our current prime minister – another example of BJ’s extraordinary exceptionalism.
Boris reminds me of Elvis in the 70s because no matter what Elvis did in his latter years, he couldn’t stop people idolising him. Every time he did something totally out there, which became more and more prevalent as the 70s advanced, people would just say, ‘That’s Elvis. What a legend.’ In fact, the more alienating the manoeuvre, the more people were likely to applaud it. It became a sort of, ‘No one but Elvis could ever get away with anything like that!’
He would ask for the house lights to be turned off, leaving himself and the audience in complete darkness for long stretches of a performance. He would not only forget the lyrics to well known songs, but the melodies as well. He brought out an entire album in 1974 that consisted of nothing but nonsensical stage banter like ‘Look at all these red things on my pants here’ and ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I am the NBC peacock’ for forty minutes and gave it the darkly sarcastic title, Having Fun on Stage With Elvis. It still charted in America, even going top ten on the country charts.
Someone told me they thought it was insane that Boris flew to Cornwall this week for the G7. I wasn’t surprised by the move at all – if I was him, I would have arrived there via a lorry that was the size and width of a football pitch, running on leaded petrol, with a golden throne at the top of it. Hell, if I was Boris Johnson, I would have done all the meetings at the G7 summit in my pyjamas, delivering my speeches and media spots in an old school hip hop fashion accompanied by a drum machine from 1986. And had Boris done all this, 98% of people who support the prime minister now would have gone, ‘That Boris is such a card! No one else could get away with this stuff! Don’t you just love him even more?’
I think the big difference between Boris Johnson and mid-70s Elvis is that the inability to make people get angry at his transgressions made the latter go slightly mad. I don’t think Presley could understand why people kept giving him a pass and probably started to wonder if that invalidated the success he had achieved when he was younger and actually trying. This is a hunch, but I don’t get the sense this bothers Boris all that much. He doesn’t seem tortured in any way by his ability to get away with pretty much anything. I get the sense he rather likes it.
There is a theory, postulated by those on the centre-left who have never thought much of Boris Johnson, that this will all eventually turn on the PM and the root of his downfall will be the exact same thing that propped him up in the first place. This now looks like wishful thinking to me. We’ve all written Johnson off so many times, at some point you just have to understand the guy as a phenomenon. Boris will probably be prime minister as long as he chooses. What happens to his legacy it’s too early to say, but I don’t think there will ever come a ‘gotcha’ moment while he is in office where everyone suddenly realises the emperor has no clothes. For whatever reason, Boris Johnson is just one of those politicians that come along every so often who has hold of the zeitgeist. Blair was like that while he was in Number 10 – nothing could bring him down and he left at the time of his choosing. Like it or not, Johnson is like 70s Elvis – only nature can defeat him.
While I’m here, I’ve got a new book coming out in the autumn entitled The Patient. It’s about a woman who goes into the hospital to give birth to her child, being two weeks overdue….and ends up staying in the hospital for a year, still pregnant the whole time. If you want to find out more, here’s where you can have a better look.