Saturday, 30 July 2016

Boris Johnson, James Bond fan

Photo: Huffington Post
When former Mayor of London and chief 'Brexiteer' Boris Johnson was announced as the UK's new Foreign Secretary, it's fair to say that the decision was met across the world with incredulity and much amusement. Given the nature of the position, it wasn't too long before internet was rife with talk about Boris as James Bond's boss. 

It's not the first time that Boris has been linked with James Bond. Back in October 2015, Daniel Craig told reporters, with tongue firmly in cheek, that Boris was the new James Bond. And when Boris was left dangling on a zip-wire during a live-screen event for the London Olympics in 2012, the stunt was labelled by the national media as James Bond-like.

I don't suppose Boris minds about this coverage, and may actually be flattered by it, as, judging by some of the comments he's made about Bond, he's something of a Bond fan. Most recently, during the EU referendum campaign, Boris appeared to compare the EU with a SPECTRE-like criminal organisation. In a speech, he reminded the audience that the last Bond film, Spectre, had been filmed in his mayoral offices, ‘where James Bond shoots the evil baddie who is hell-bent on subverting democracy around the world through a supra-national organisation. I think there’s a metaphor there,’ he said.

In 2013, during a visit to China to promote London as a place open to investment, Boris told an audience of students that the Chinese-owned Trinity Square in London had doubled as the replacement MI6 headquarters in Skyfall. Boris said, 'if that isn’t openness to China, I don’t know what is.'

Shortly after his zip-wire mishap in 2012, Boris took Arnold Schwarzenegger for a cable car ride across the Thames. To a certain generation, cable cars are synonymous with Where Eagles Dare and Moonraker. I certainly can't ride in a cable car without thinking of the films and judging the distance between my car and the oncoming one as they pass, assessing the practicalities of a jump from one to the other. Boris and Arnie are evidently of a similar mind. In the cable car, Boris reminded Arnie of Where Eagles Dare, in which 'they get out and wrestle on top of the cable car.' Arnie replied that 'they did the same thing in a James Bond movie', before mentioning Jaws. Boris' face lit up. 'Jaws! That's right!'

In addition to his political duties, Boris Johnson is also a columnist. He's referred to James Bond. In some of the columns he's written for the Daily Telegraph,  In a piece published in 2010 about the use of helmets on the ski slopes, Boris wrote: 'Each of us must make his or her choice. But I ask you this: does James Bond wear a helmet, when he out-skis the baddie in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?' Earlier, in 2006, Boris argued that it might be better to talk to the regimes of Iran and North Korea, rather than threaten them, but added that 'if there was some way of quietly disabling Kim's bombs... we should certainly consider it. Where is James Bond these days?' And back in 2003, Boris wrote about his love of the James Bond films and his memory of being taken to the cinema by his father to watch Diamonds Are Forever.

However Boris Johnson will be judged as Foreign Secretary, he's certainly flying the flag for James Bond. Part of that comes from his fondness of the Bond films (and, presumably, the books, which I imagine are required reading at Eton). But for Boris, James Bond is also a source of national pride and a proxy for Britain's position in the world. However illusory such use of James Bond may be, it's been this way ever since Fleming wrote the Bond books, which from the start provided a counterpoint to the national soul-searching in a post-Empire Britain rocked by spy scandals and politically damaged by the Suez crisis.

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