Hillbilly grin won’t explain away his error of judgment

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Boris Johnson likes to give the impression of stumbling rather aimlessly through life, only vaguely aware of the next step he wants to take or the next word he intends to utter.

In reality, of course, he is the consummate politician and remarkably sure-footed where his career is concerned.

He has long since mastered the knack of distancing himself from coalition policies, while not appearing to be subversive.

But has old blondie become a bit too sure of himself? He has twice dined with Rupert Murdoch recently – and it will take more than the usual hillbilly grin and ‘aw shucks’ shrug to explain away this error of judgment.

Both parties have been anxious to dismiss these meetings as ‘private engagements’ about which they are not prepared to comment – but that is pitifully disingenuous.

As Mayor of London, Johnson has a supervising role with the Metropolitan Police – some of whose officers are being investigated about allegations of accepting illegal payments from News Corporation journalists.

Surely he can see that breaking bread with Murdoch – whether privately or otherwise – is at best rash, and at worst, foolhardy.

David Cameron will never fully escape the shadow of suspicion caused by his friendship with Murdoch’s former News International chief Rebekah Brooks.

But if Johnson is not prepared to learn from his party leader’s mistakes, he may well have to learn from his own.

After all, he is not the only wannabe waiting in the wings for Cameron to fall from grace. The latest to be touted for the top job (though he denies any immediate ambition) is Adam Afriyie – the cut of whose jib will appeal to many floating voters who are now becoming wary of all the silver spoons glinting away on the Tory front bench.

Afriyie – though not yet a household name - is a personable, self-made millionaire who hails from a Peckham council estate.

He has experienced the harsh side of life and business – and the fact he is of mixed-race will be an added advantage if, as expected, the Obama factor comes into play at the next election.