Dispatches: The Trouble With Boris (Channel 4): A Year Long Investigation into the Current Mayor of London

Irish comedian Dara O’Briain makes light during his stand-up that if he had known that presenting Have I Got News For You would have got him the Mayor of London job he wouldn’t have settled for Mock the Week. Although it’s a great joke it does serve an example where the truth is far more bizarre than the set up.

Boris Johnson One Year Later

Dispatches, Channel 4’s long running investigative journalism programme, has tackled many controversial topics over the years such as religious hatred, war and poor school teaching. Now it’s the turn of journalist-cum-politician Boris Johnson (real name Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson) who went from foolish appearances on HIGNFY to the top mayoral job in the UK.

It doesn’t seem like it but a year has passed since Bo Jo was elected Mayor of London by beating Ken Livingston. Here reporter Antony Barnett examines Boris’s time in office and his plans for the capital’s future, such as his contradictory environmental policy and the shaky build-up to the 2012 Olympics.

Boris and the Bendy Buses

Regardless of his image Boris is of course no stranger to TV portraying him as stupid and clumsy but he does know how the media works. This documentary depicted Boris as a master at creating an image and pandering to opinion although exposed that what he says and what he does are completely different.

There was a small selection of interesting clips showing Boris being grilled at meetings about his intervention in calling for Ian Blair’s resignation as the nation’s top cop and the Damian Green arrest, which he was told about in advance. Barnett talked to many groups and other party politicians, who obviously would disprove of Johnson’s actions, but besides a short interview with Barnett there was very little input from Boris.

It could have been a nice addition to see Boris try to explain his actions but given that he is a politician, and a very incoherent one at that, chances are his answers would have revealed very little.

First Ever Broadcast of the Darius Guppy Tape

It was as if the makers wanted to change tack by moving away from the man himself becoming the topic but rather the decisions he makes and the reasoning behind it. This includes his withdrawn objections to plans for more tall buildings in London, his much reported dislike of bendy buses based on false information and his proposal for a new international airport in the Thames Estuary which conflicts with his opposition to the new runway at Heathrow on the grounds of protecting the environment.

The Trouble With Boris marked the first ever TV broadcast of the Darius Guppy recording, where Boris and his friend discussed beating up a journalist who was giving Guppy a hard time. Even though this has little relevance today Barnett argued it demonstrated an admission to bend the rules. Co-incidentally it was this incident that catapulted Boris into the limelight in the mid-90s when he was shown up by Ian Hislop on HIGNFY.

His later appearances on that show won him legions of fans, even those who don’t vote Conservative, due to his dishevelled nature and funny lines; he’s either got fantastic comic timing or he’s a raving idiot. Quite admirably Dispatches didn’t just go for an endless stream of “silly Boris” clips but showed that despite his popularity and charming persona perhaps he isn’t the right man for the job after all. Time will tell.


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