Boris! Mayor of London is biggest winner at London Olympics.
Boris Johnson's cheerleading of the Games has earned him legions of fans among the British public and made him the Conservative Party's favorite to replace Prime Minister David Cameron.
If it had happened to any other politician, it would have constituted a horrible embarrassment.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Today at the Olympics
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But when Boris Johnson got stuck on a zip wire halfway across a park on Wednesday, it was just the latest public relations triumph for the mayor of London. With his suit trousers ruched up around his calves and forlornly flapping a Union flag in either hand, he dangled in the air calling for “A rope! Get me a ladder!” to hoots of laughter from the delighted crowd below.
London’s Conservative mayor, a former – and no doubt future – mmber of Parliament has long been enjoyed in Britain for his eccentricity and wit. He has also been reviled for his bumbling manner and low-level xenophobic gaffes.
But his enthusiastic cheerleading of the London Games has earned him legions of fans among the British public, and, it seems, members of his own party.
A new poll of Conservative Party activists, published this week, reveals that Mr. Johnson is the party's favorite to replace Prime Minister David Cameron as leader of the Tories. He came in a little ahead of Foreign Minister William Hague and a long way ahead of Chancellor George Osborne, who was once considered the natural replacement for Mr. Cameron.
The poll’s findings will be taken seriously by strategists for the party, which has been bruised in recent weeks by a catalog of woes, from the still depressed economy to its troubled relationship with its coalition partners the Liberal Democrats.
Boris Johnson, a former editor of The Spectator magazine, became a Tory MP in 2001 and was appointed as a shadow minister soon after. He resigned as an MP when he was voted in as mayor of London in 2008, a position he won again this year.
In a city that tends to vote to the left, his success in the mayoral elections was an indication of his personal appeal. But he was still regarded by many senior Tories as an unlikely candidate to lead their party.
That may now be changing. If he does become leader of the Conservatives, commentators will look back on the Olympics as a defining moment for Johnson.
He became established as the poster boy for the Games when he reacted to Mitt Romney’s criticism of Britain’s preparation for the Olympics with a rallying speech in Hyde Park. “Are we ready? Yes, we are!” he yelled, to refrains from the crowd of 60,000.
For the public, who had begun to tire of Olympics officiousness, his irreverence came as a tonic. The media leapt on every joke he has made since. And they have come thick and fast.