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August 07, 2014

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Calum

>>why was this story the lead item

In addition to your explanations, there is the simple fact he has a high chance of pulling it off. The media would be remiss not to be talking about him

Luis Enrique

The people who run Politics departments at universities don't study either poltics1 or politics2, or at least they certainly don't study the examples you give (justification of bosses power, role of hierarchies etc.).

Whereas economists do (see here for some of that http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9889.html )

are you sure this isn't an economics blog?

From Arse To Elbow

Politics2, the focus on personality, long predates modern media: consider Athens and Rome. But these are not real personalities, they are projections that we all (not just journalists) use to incorporate certain ethical and political ideas.

The significance of Johnson is not his capering buffoonery, or his Churchill tribute act (though both are important signifiers), but his role as The City's man and thus the shifting balance of power within the Tory party between varieties of capital.

That he should have declared himself as a "safe" Eurosceptic, in order to win a constituency nomination, while publishing a report by Gerald Lyons that (quietly) advocates staying in, is politically significant.

That we (media folk and civvies alike) articulate this through tales of his hypocrisy, unreliability and boundless ambition is just a way of dramatising the contending forces. It worked for Aristophanes.

Guano

Interesting points, especially this:-

"It is what makes Mr Johnson political2 news, because he is a "character" who fulfils a major function of politicians - to provide entertainment for journalists."

I see that a certain newspaper has a headline today "Boris Mania". The problem is that this mania only exists inside a certain part of the media: it doesn't reflect what is happening in the outside world. Those articles that try to explore what the rest of the Conservative Party thinks, or what UKIP and Tory voters think, are much more circumspect.

Johnson does far fewer public meetings and fewer press conferences than Livingstone, and he looks really uncomfortable when he does. It is difficult for him to hide behind his Dennis the Menace persona, which only really works with a small part of the "political" media.

Phil

This chimes with the minor point I was making in my BBC post the other day. I'm genuinely shocked at how debased the Radio 4 news, in particular, has become. The parliamentary sketchwriters are a lost cause, and the main newsreader's script is starting to go the same way - one of the neutral links in the Johnson story described him as "someone who would make the House of Commons that bit less dull" or words to that effect. Taking politics seriously is becoming a minority sport even among the minority who think about it at all.

Chris Purnell

Actually the Johnson coverage isn't about Johnson it's about Cameron. The bookies currently offer 4/5 on a Labour majority and therefore there will be a leadership contest. The coverage on Johnson is early coverage of that leadership contest. Whether a fat baffoon is electable in the country as a whole is very problematical as many Tories know (outside the M25 that is).

mutant_dog

Assuming my reading-comprehension function is online, I believe that, in your concluding paragraph, where you cite politics1 you actually meant to complain about politics2 displacing politics1.

chris

Thanks mutant - you're right. Correction made.

Churm Rincewind

My understanding is that the majority of polls (of varying quality admittedly) establish Boris Johnson as the most respected/influential/popular politician in Britain today.

I have my own problems with that, but I really can't blame the media for responding to what is clearly intense public interest in the man.

Guano

Here is someone who thinks that Johnson made his announcement about seeking to be an MP to distract attention from his own failure to be an homme serieux.

http://blogs.wsj.com/simonnixon/2014/08/07/boris-johnson-is-talking-piffle/

andrew

I agree with the general notion, and this rather depresses me.

Apart from one point - as other posters have said, this is an economics blog. not a political blog.

Economists report and describe

Politicians report and prescribe

It is fairly clear where your sympathies lie (and I agree with many of them), and there is no clear dividing line between description and prescription, but very little of your writing tells us what to do to make things better.

shorebreeze

I think your post misses the point slightly. If that local politician is the mayor of the capital city who is quite open about his ambitiousness, then of course it's national news, even before you consider all the ethical issues. On the other hand, the UK media are getting to be as confined within the North Circular Road as the US political media have long been confined to a within-the-Capital-Beltway perspective, and that's a worrying development.

Laban Tall

o/t, Chris, but no comment on this Globalist piece? It must be the first time for years that they've implied that increasing the labour force might lower wages.

http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21611074-how-new-technology-shaking-up-oldest-business-more-bang-your-buck

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