Back in 2009, as a photojournalist, I was invited to a special St Georges Day event at Leadenhall Market in the City of London of which, then London Mayor, Boris Johnson would be attending, along with the celebrity chef Gary Rhodes.
Given that Boris Johnson is now likely to be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, I thought it’d be interesting to dig out those photos from my archives and reflect back on the day.
These events are always closely choreographed and stage managed with quite a frenetic tabloid press pack in attendance. We were instructed to arrive at Leadenhall Market by a specific time where, following being checked off by the Mayor’s Press Office, we were give our “instructions” – usually the do’s and do not’s of dealing with the Mayor.
It was then a case of waiting around for Boris to arrive with Gary Rhodes, on a traditional red double decker Routemaster, no less. With St George’s flags fluttering, city traders mixing with market traders and Pearly Kings and Queens trying to out-tradition Morris Dancer, no St George’s Day cliche was missing.
True to form the Mayor was late – the bus held up in the notorious London traffic. As soon as he did it became the usual media scrum to get the best position to get the shots that would furnish that evening’s front pages and local London news broadcasts.
These media packs are not for the fainthearted in amongst the jostling and positioning, and the slightest sign of courtesy is seen as weakness and you quickly find yourself elbowed out. Thankfully, I’m not so easily budged or moved out the way!
What you have to realise about Boris Johnson is that his “one of the chaps” and buffoonery is very much a public act. For instance, before he got off the bus, he quickly checked his hair and ruffled it up some more.
However, on this particular day, the normally publicly jocular Boris Johnson was missing. He seemed unusually tetchy with us photojournalists, refusing to play up for the cameras.
In fact, he got particularly annoyed being asked to don one of the Morris Dancer’s hats and to dance with them. He downright refused and accused us of trying to make him look foolish, something he didn’t usually shy away from. The best we got was him holding a hat above his head, as if he was worried about messing up the hair he had earlier sought to mess up.
Looking back, it’s fascinating to review photos of man still early on his path to the most powerful seat in the land. Yet still, that carefully stage managed event does demonstrate a determined politician even then, a decade before he was likely to become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.