The week did not start well for Boris Johnson, filmed wandering around Clapham beset by angry heckling middle class voters. Was it the moment that BoJo lost his shine, as Kiran suggested a few days ago?
Friends of the London mayor admit that he was caught on the hop, holidaying with his family on the west coast of the USA, some 300 miles from the nearest airport. On returning to Britain, his Clapham walkabout was not his greatest moment.
But I would argue that his eventual response – calling for more support for the police – showed a deft political touch.
In private, apparently, he has been making the argument (against spending cuts to the police) behind the scenes for the last three months. This week he went public very loudly and very deliberately. It was no co-incidence that on Friday morning he was standing next to Tim Godwin, acting head of the Metropolitan Police, as Godwin appeared to criticise interfering politicians.
The message was not exactly welcomed in Downing Street, as it has created a fresh headache for David Cameron; not least because – as I understand it – Boris is backed privately by Michael Gove and Liam Fox. As well as the Labour party.
You can criticise his position from a position of cold logic (why make the police a special case amid scores of other “special cases” hoping to evade the cuts?).
For Londoners, however, alarmed by the sudden deterioration in security, it was what they wanted to hear. The message of election rival Ken Livingstone, that the riots were somehow the fault of the coalition’s cuts of the last year, by contrast smacked of politicking.
And Cameron, frustrated though he often is by Boris, understands that the mayor needs deep blue water between himself and the national government.
Later in the week the mayor did more walkabouts where the response was, I’m told, more enthusiastic – for example, a crowd of 200 drama students thronging him near London Bridge and calling out his name; in a positive manner. (The media were not there). He appears to have recovered his momentum from the shaky start to the week.
During COBRA meetings Boris was among those resisting the idea of bringing in the tanks and soldiers on to the streets to deal with rioters. In a typically florid turn of phrase, he remarked that it would be “like returning to some banana republic in the 1970s.”