By Giselle Green


Boris' Bollywood Blitz could hardly have produced more glowing images than if he'd been doing a photo shoot for Hello magazine. Over the past week we've been bombarded with pictures of the London Mayor drinking with the England cricket team and basking in their reflected glory, bending it like Beckham while playing Slumdog Boris in a 23-a-side football match, and rubbing shoulders with India's leading film star, who embarrassingly had to tell Boris who she was. I'm amazed the Mayor's aides didn't arrange for the wistful pose in front of the Taj Mahal. But you get the picture. And so did we all.

Having shelled out to send their journalists On Tour with Boris, it was only natural that the Evening Standard, ITV London Tonight and BBC London News would want a return on their investment. Hence the double page spreads, front page articles, editorials and nightly TV reports. But what were they, and the national press, actually reporting on, other than Boris' attempt to be seen as an international statesman?

Boris used the opportunity of a foreign trip to fire off political salvoes in all directions without fear of a counter-attack. In the past week he's called for a cut in both the top rate of income tax and stamp duty for first time buyers, criticised Theresa May over immigration and student visas, mocked the French, attacked Google, done a U-turn over Europe (an EU- turn), attacked Leveson and plugged Boris Airport. He even used the circling of his plane over Heathrow on the flight home to further push that last cause, with two of the reporters accompanying him almost simultaneously tweeting his thoughts. Spinning while circling, impressive.

While Boris was in Mumbai singing the praises of Brompton bikes (does that make him an honorary member of the Bombay Bicycle Club?) back at home Londoners were more concerned with the rising number of cycling casualties, not to mention the closure of hospitals, A&E units, fire stations and police stations, bus strikes and the millions wasted on a cable car that hardly anyone uses.

But it's so much more fun and instantly and easily reportable to see Boris "batting for Britain" on a picturesque beach in Mumbai, or dancing Bollywood-style, just as it was to see him dangling on a zip wire, rather than reporting ongoing complex issues without the entertaining pictures. I’m not claiming Boris is given a free ride by the media, but it’s all too easy to become part of his PR machine. Pictures of Boris, however ridiculous, always outweigh the words around them and enhance his reputation.

Many have questioned the motives behind Boris’ escapades in India, from Ken Livingstone (who reminded us that it was Boris who closed down the British trade offices in Delhi and Mumbai) to the Financial Times (which queries whether trade missions like these achieve anything anyway). Whether banging the drum for British business will bear fruit remains to be seen. But banging the drum for Boris will certainly bear fruit for him.

Apparently Boris’ aides tried to secure him a walk-on part in a Bollywood film but Boris decided that would be "too frivolous". Too frivolous for Boris? Clearly he has his eyes on the starring role in another job.

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