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03/25/2013

When Boris met Eddie

Boris (reuters)
London Mayor Boris Johnson. (Reuters)
 
For certain parts of British society, journalism is a spectator sport. Who's winning, who's losing - and yesterday, the loser appeared to be London Mayor Boris Johnson.
 
For the record: He's not used to losing.

A BBC journalist called Eddie Mair was declared winner. I think it's pretty fair to say Mair is not a familiar face to many U.K. television viewers. (The reason: He's usually on the radio, where he presents a smart evening news program called PM.)

But on Sunday morning, Mair was sitting in for host Andrew Marr on one of the BBC's most important political shows. The program -- which everyone just calls "Marr" -- is where politicans go to make big announcements, defend unpopular policies, preview important speeches.

It's must-watch TV for anyone in politics, business, and the media. And I hope it goes without saying that it's not always very exciting. Yesterday was an exception.

Boris, who is one of those people who is known in the U.K. by only his first name -- like Madonna -- must have thought it'd be the usual. He's charming, and funny, and smart. And he usually charms and bumbles his way through.

Not yesterday. Mair asked him hard questions -- about his background, and personal life -- and demanded answers. And then this: "You're a nasty piece of work, aren't you?"
Twitter went absolutely mad. The news made news.

"After the 15 minutes of chilling inquisition by the soft-spoken Eddie Mair, Johnson's reputation had taken a severe pounding," wrote the political editor of the left-leaning Guardian, Patrick Wintour. "It was probably the worst interview the mayor has ever conducted."

Boris's father, Stanley Johnson, told London radio this morning that he thought Mair's interview was a "disgusting piece of journalism" and that his son had, essentially, been blindsided.

But the mayor on Mair? He was doing his job. And, according to the BBC, Boris thought it was "splendid."
 
And so, it seems, did the viewers at home. Just ask Twitter.

Jennifer Quinn is a foreign affairs and investigative reporter at the Star. As a correspondent for the Associated Press, based in London, she wrote extensively about British politics. Follow her on Twitter: @JQStar

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