Boris’s top aides long ago reconciled themselves to being overshadowed by their boss – all know that no matter how involved they were in planning whatever City Hall’s announcing at its latest carefully planned photo-op, the cameras and photographers will only have eyes for Boris.
All stand dutifully alongside the great man for the initial burst of photos then gracefully slip away as the media get the picture they really want of Boris doing something amusing or daft – see above.
But there is one poor soul who, no matter how hard he tries, seems unable to stay out of the photos – Boris’s top media spinner Will Walden.
Despite his very best efforts, Will frequently pops up in photos and footage of Boris doing all sorts of things including, today, Boris campaigning to be elected Uxbridge’s next MP.
— Susana Mendonça (@susana_mendonca) April 27, 2015
(There was another picture doing the rounds yesterday that I’m told was taken during last year’s local council elections where Walden also made an unintended cameo. He also accidentally featured in lots of BBC footage of Boris in China can also be seen on the right hand side of the third picture here).
This has prompted some understandable questions on Twitter about the appropriate use of City Hall resources and staff during an election period – especially given the media blackout currently shrouding the Greater London Authority’s work which I’ve complained about before.
In an impossible to achieve ideal world Boris would be let out on the streets to campaign, everyone would respect the difference between his pan-London responsibilities and his personal ambitions and no journalists would ask him questions about his Mayoralty.
Back in the real world, if you put the Mayor of London into the midst of a crowd of voters and journalists tired of the General Election’s relentless tedium, there’s a good chance they might be tempted to ask funny old Boris a question about his tenure at City Hall.
Boris could refuse to play along and insist he’s only there to answer questions about his campaign but the sight of him doing so would look bloody awful and he’d be accused of dodging questions or avoiding scrutiny.
As many readers will realise, whenever a journo is asking a politician a question there’s usually someone off camera to monitor what’s been said in case of reporter error (it happens, sometimes) and ensure someone gets back to journos who need extra info the interviewee doesn’t have to hand (this happens a lot).
Even Boris, for all his brilliance, needs people to perform these functions – there’s not a journalist in the land who’d want to rely on him remembering to call them later on with the extra detail they’d asked for!
In the midst of an election where we have the peculiar spectacle of the Mayor campaigning for another job it’s probably important that whoever is performing that task is senior and savvy enough not to accidentally get pulled the wrong side of the Mayor/parliamentary candidate divide.
And for their own protection, it’s probably a good idea for that person not to be one of the regular taxpayer-funded City Hall press officers who could be accused of showing bias or straying beyond their job remit.
This, I’m told, is why it was decided the task should fall to Walden – a member of Boris’s hand-picked personal staff who’ll leave City Hall at end of his Mayoralty.
I’m also told that Walden will continue to watch his master’s back for the remainder for the dullest general election campaign ever, but as he continues to perfect his camera-avoiding skills we’re likely to see fewer pictures of him doing so.