7th November 2007 Lunch with the Evening Standard. Am asked how I will appeal to Conservative voters. I say I'm a former police officer, Oxford educated, business degree, scrub up well, can put sentences together in an intelligent way. 'Yes,' says one of the journalists. 'But how are you going to appeal to Conservative voters?'"
"Boris Johnson will remain an Oxfordshire MP for up to a year if he becomes Mayor of London in the closest race since the post was created in 2000. As 5.5 million registered voters prepare to cast their votes today, Mr Johnson’s constituency said that it did not expect to replace him as MP for Henley immediately."
The three main candidates appeared on BBC London's Breakfast programme this morning. The press office has sent me the following account:
"Policy turned to pants after presenters Jo Good and Paul Ross asked them all if they would be wearing a favourite lucky pair to pull in the extra votes. Ken said: 'No, no, I’m gonna get up tomorrow and run manically all over London reminding people to vote…'But you will be wearing pants tomorrow Ken?' asked Paul Ross
'I definitely will be wearing pants tomorrow and this is as far as we’re going into my private life.' Ken chuckled.
When Brian Paddick was asked the same question, after containing his laughter, he roared, 'All my pants are lucky.'
As for Boris he replied: 'Well if I had such a thing I might. But he went on to confess he does have some superstitions, “When I go for a run, which I do virtually every morning, very slowly, I tend to make sure that I touch….I tend to whack certain posts along the way. I do get a bit obsessive compulsive about it and I have to whack the right ones, in the right order!'"
Maybe I've been too nice about Boris. After all, the Telegraph's Simon Heffer knows him better than I:
"I want to dismiss a prejudice about Mr Johnson, and I do so as one who has known him for the past 20 years. It is that he is a buffoon. He isn't. The act is calculated and it has required serious application and timing of the sort of which only a clever man is capable. For some of us the joke has worn not thin, but out. Yet many less cynical than I am find it appealing. It conceals two things: a blinding lack of attention to detail, and (though this might seem to sit ill with the first point) a ruthless ambition.
Mr Johnson is the most ambitious person I have ever met. That ought to be a commendation for high office, since ambitious people normally understand they will go further only by doing their present job well. Mr Johnson's scattergun approach to life will not allow this. In his superb biography of him, my colleague Andrew Gimson outlines the practice that has allowed Mr Johnson to get so far in life: he has used his charm, to which only a few more seasoned hands are immune, to enlist at every stage what Mr Gimson calls 'stooges' to help him advance.
There were stooges when Mr Johnson was en route to be president of the Oxford Union. He has had stooges all through journalism, who did significant parts of his various jobs for him, usually with little thanks or reward. And now there are stooges in politics. If Mr Johnson became Mayor tomorrow, he would be the front man for nameless others who would run London. That may well be better than more of Mr Livingstone. It would not be what people think they are voting for."
During the weeks of the election campaign that's eaten my life I’ve striven to be fair to Boris Johnson. There was, though, never much chance I’d vote for him. That said, I’ve also been testing my loyalty to Ken Livingstone. I believe his various critics, including those with roots on the Left, have over-spun or overstated their cases against him, but that isn’t to say they lack all force. There’s also the question of how much difference a change of mayor would really make.
"When I went to work for the Spectator as political editor seven years ago, the then editor Boris Johnson would ring me up once a week. The first thing I noticed about these calls was that they ran contrary to Johnson's carefully cultivated public image as a buffoon. He was chillingly efficient. I would hardly begin to clear my throat before he'd say something that showed he understood better than I did what I was trying to say. Within five minutes we had covered the landscape."
"Everyone wants to talk to him afterwards. I wait in line behind the BBC, then LBC, then another camera crew, and another, then a correspondent from Italy that Boris obviously knows. He speaks Italian, and they laugh. "Is it Cole?" says Boris suddenly, looking up in mid-stream. Yes, I say, taken by surprise. He smiles, and returns to the Italian, who has just asked about his reputation as a clown. "I don't think anybody underestimates the seriousness with which I am approaching this job."
Indeed. I am next, and the only one left ... but just as Boris opens his mouth to speak, the handler places his body between us. They have to go, he says nervously but insistently. Right now. 'Cole was with me on the stump in my first campaign in Henley,' Boris protests. The old pro has either been forewarned, or this is an example of that prodigious memory that allows him to quote the Greeks at length.
'Cole is my first priority!' he insists, not entirely plausibly, but the handler has other ideas. Al-Jazeera has appeared. Suddenly, it seems, they are not in such a hurry to go. Boris tells the reporter he is proud of his Muslim ancestors, rattles off a few answers then turns back to me. The room is almost empty. Every single reporter or broadcast journalist who wants it has been given time. But not me.
'We really do have to go,' insists the handler, who has obviously had firm instructions not to let us speak. Boris shrugs, and flashes one of those smiles that have helped him get away with so much. He's sorry, he's so busy, he'll ring me. In the morning. Absolutely.
I know he won't. Even if he wants to. (And so, in time, it proves.)"
"As immaculately dressed waiters served up roast lamb in the hotel's chandeliered ballroom, one of the prime movers in London politics gave vent to months of frustration. 'Boris, you've got to pull your finger out,' the Evening Standard editor, Veronica Wadley, told the Tory candidate for London mayor.
An Eton scholar who does not take kindly to being rebuked, Johnson mumbled incoherently as other guests took the opportunity to air their own concerns about his lacklustre campaign. But the blunt assessment hit home. By the turn of the year, his campaign had sharpened up and now Johnson could be close to the biggest political breakthrough by the Conservatives since John Major's surprise general election victory in 1992.
'Boris looked very sheepish as Veronica told him he had to pull his finger out,' one of the guests said. 'A lightbulb came on - by January he was really energised and now he may be on the verge of an extraordinary upset.'"
Now read more of Nicholas Watt's and Sam Jones's very good piece today.