He’s behind you!

Turn again, Detective Inspector Hathaway

“This time two years ago, I was on a hotel balcony in Majorca with crazy hair extensions practising a Manchester accent for a TV show.” Laurence Fox was speaking. For a moment, we thought it was going to be one of those anecdotes that actors wheel out on the Graham Norton Show. In a minute, he was going to tell us that Tom Cruise walked in and hilariously mistook him for the cleaner.

But, of course, Fox wasn’t on the Graham Norton Show. He never seems to have been, not even back in the good days, before Lewis was cancelled. His cousin, Emilia Fox, was, twice. And her detective series, Silent Witness, is in its twenty-fifth season. To think that people say women face discrimination in the workplace!

No, Laurence Fox was standing in Smith Square, around the corner from Parliament, revealing the battlebus for his campaign to be London mayor. “I am not a politician,” he said, incorrectly. Take the sketch’s word for it, once you have your name on a bus and a campaign to be London mayor, you’re a politician. “I never wanted to be a politician,” he went on. “I am a single father and an actor. Well, I used to be an actor. More about that later.”

We never did get more about that, which is a shame, because it does rather seem to go to the heart of why Fox was standing in front of a bus. He hasn’t yet set out his policy platform but, when it comes, the subtext will surely be: “require ITV to commission a minimum two seasons of Hathaway, revealing what happened next for the cast of Lewis”.

There is a faintly Alan Partridge air to the entire Fox campaign – if Partridge had spent the years after he lost his marriage and his show sitting in the Linton Travel Tavern watching YouTube videos about the oppression of white men. The themes were clear from the bus, which had “Free London” scrawled on the side, and a picture of Winston Churchill’s statue with a gag tied round its mouth.

This is bang-on message targeting. Put simply, if you believe Covid is over-played, and that Britain is so crippled by political correctness that anyone praising Churchill is instantly arrested by Sadiq Khan’s Woke Stasi, then you should definitely vote for Fox. He’s your man, and you won’t get better.

“In the last two years, I have noticed an enormous erosion of our civil liberties,” Fox went on. “Our freedom to speak our mind. Our freedom to debate.” He didn’t offer examples, and one suspects that Fox feels these things are so obvious that they don’t need to be proved. The sketch would merely note that people who think black men can never be English still apparently feel free to call in to radio shows and tell them so, suggesting there remains a certain amount of mind-speaking going on out there.

Along with casting directors who don’t call back and people who have the temerity to tell you that you’re wrong about the role of Sikhs in the Great War, Fox had identified a third evil oppressing London: the virus.

If the comments section of a right-wing newspaper were turned into a candidate, it would talk like Fox

Not the virus itself, obviously. Fox was a little unclear about whether he believes it exists at all, but he certainly doesn’t think the disease is as bad as the cure. Social distancing was not a feature of the launch, with his supporters crowded behind him and not a facemask in sight.

Fox wants lockdown lifted immediately. It was imposed, he said, without consultation. “We weren’t offered the other side of the debate.” I mean, some people were. On the latest tally, 148,000 people got to experience the other side of the debate. They won’t be voting in this election, though, or indeed in any others.

Fox’s argument wasn’t just with the politicians, it was with the public, too. “We’ve become a nation of lockdown addicts,” he complained. London was a “cathedral of wokery”, a comment that left you wondering why he wanted to be mayor at all. “This beautiful city has been turned into a ghost town. Somebody needs to rescue London. Somebody needs to unlock London now, and I can tell you, Sadiq Khan’t.”

There was more. Fox said he wanted to “take the politics out of policing”, before giving quite a long list of instructions that he, a politician, would give to the police. He wants statues of slave-owners put back up, because otherwise we might forget about the history of slavery. He accused Khan of spending £100 million on a diversity commission – it’s £1 million, according to the mayor’s office, but Fox acknowledged maths isn’t a strong suit. Boris Johnson, he said, was “pretty far left,” which will come as news to the far left. If the comments section of a right-wing newspaper were turned into a candidate, it would talk like Fox.

Of course, this sort of sniping, pointing out that people who run for office should have thought-through positions, is exactly the kind of thing that Fox is against. In the London he runs, a chap will be able to be mayor, and get his own detective series, and tell his funny anecdotes to Graham Norton. It’s the least he’s entitled to.

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