Yep: sure enough! Here it comes!
The “Stop BoJo” wagon, as predicted, is beginning to roll. Quick chorus of Three Wheels on my Wagon (Burt Bacharach for the New Christy Minstrels, 1961 — if my memory serves). Mayor Johnson will need to heed:
Them Cherokees are after me
Burn my ears
But I’m singing a happy song!
As I see it, we can count:
The Guardian has that one.
It’s the old story of adversarial politics: your opponents are over there; you enemies are behind you.
All the evidence is the Tory ship is not a happy one. It’s not just the long-festering EU-thingy (and BoJo has swung both ways on that), it’s pent-up ambition and resentment:
- Cameron has overlooked talent — every Tory back-bencher feels she/he has a need for, deserves one of those red boxes.
- Dammit! Those unworthy LibDems have their share of that elusive prize.
- Cameron, despite keeping his enemies close, has kept his friends closer. He has discarded a few too many adept political dagger-men. They will not forgive and forget.
Consequently there are two schools of thought on BoJo (who, for all his numerous faults — to which we come in a moment — is an operator):
- The Tories are likely to lose in 2015, That will necessitate a change of leader. That opens opportunities for new talent to be discovered, old talent to be refurnished. Let’s get on board early!
- We have all the talent we need, thank you. Even if we do lose in 2015, we don’t need more flashy competition in the next talent-show.
Among the second group are the Friends of George, and it is the Osborne faction whom we need to watch. They are not Friends of BoJo.
The Daily Mail, of course.
First thing to consider in that case: the Daily Mail is no convinced fan of Cameron.
Then again, are the constituencies really Stompin’ at the Savoy to have BoJo as their prospective parliamentary candidate? The blue-rinse ladies may coo over him … then nudge each other in the ribs and recall how he treated poor Petsy. Among others. Constituency chairmen may harbour ambitions of their own, or for someone local, or who is mouldable in the right image: Johnson doesn’t fit anyone’s mould. Nor does Johnson have any reputation for being “a good constituency MP”. His attendance at local functions was notoriously erratic. Max Hastings, also in the Mail, nails a lot of the rest:
… he is also capable of creating mayhem. He is an egomaniac with a strand of recklessness, a loose cannon capable of holing his own side’s ship. He was, don’t forget, a member of that silly Oxford Bullingdon Club group with Cameron and George Osborne.
John Dryden, back in 1681, described the 1st Earl of Shaftsbury in similar terms:
A daring pilot in extremity,
Pleased with the danger, when the waves went high,
He sought the storms; but, for a calm unfit,
Would steer too nigh the sands to boast his wit.
Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide…
Being BoJo’s Constituency Committee, and therefore licensed keeper, would never be an easy job. Yes, the next 2015 Election will involve a huge media attention … and then? And there’d always be the fear of a late-Saturday evening telephone call, and a reptile for one of the sensational Sundays looking for an instant quote on the latest doing. Oh, and Lock Up Your Daughters.
The simple matter of orthodoxy.
Truth to tell, Tory orthodoxy is Euroscepticism, even to the ultra utterance. Let’s go to the Times next (as right):
Last night Eurosceptics said they saw Mr Johnson’s decision as a boost to their campaign to take Britain out of the EU. His announcement of a return to the Commons came after a speech in which he said that Britain should not be afraid of life outside the EU.
Yet, Johnson carefully tailors his remarks to his audience. What he says about leaving the EU is always balanced with City-friendly qualifications about “reform” of the EU. Try that recent Bloomberg speech:
… for 15 years after the fall of the wall, it was the EU that served as a beacon and an objective for Poland and other former communist countries. It was the EU’s insistence on market reforms that has transformed those economies, and helped provide the British speedway fan with the friendly cafes and prompt service, ice cream and all the stuff that you would not have expected under communism.
And as we, this week, mark a century since the outbreak of the First World War, we should reflect that for 70 or almost 70, of those 100 years, there has now been peace in western Europe, probably the longest uninterrupted absence of war since the days of the Antonine emperors; and of course there are probably all sorts of reasons for that peace
Then come the Eurosceptic “buts”, starting with “economic underperformance” and “collapse of political trust”. Both those sound capable of remedy. That’s the third section of his speech, pointedly sub-headed The solution: reform and referendum. For all the eurosceptic spin, most of this speech could have been delivered (absenting the mock-intellectual stuff about Roman history) by a David Cameron acolyte.
So, the problem with BoJo’s third wheel is one never knows which way he will spin it.
The spare wheel
Johnson comes with so much excess baggage. He is a foul-mouthed, adulterous, lying, racist bigot. Note that I have hot-linked each of those terms.
When Michael Howard (who, remember, went along with those dog-whistle Tory posters in 2005) sacked Johnson from his Front Bench, it wasn’t for the adultery:
Howard said the sacking was because Johnson had lied over the affair. It had nothing to do with morality.
That remains one of my favourite definitions of Tory family values.
Finally, let’s consider Johnson as a parliamentary candidate for Uxbridge, which seems to be a prime choice:
He is now expected to seek the safe seat of Uxbridge & South Ruislip where the Tory MP, Sir John Randall, who has a majority of 11,000, has announced that he will not run again.
However, local sources said that huge interest in contesting the seat meant that Mr Johnson faced a race against time if he hoped to secure it. Tory HQ is expecting as many as 100 applicants, according to insiders, meaning that Mr Johnson needed to make his intentions known very soon.
A source said: “Things have moved on quickly. The selection process is now set in motion. We’re gearing up for it and the association will make a final choice on September 12. So if Boris wishes to apply for the constituency, he’s got to get his intentions known to central office pretty quick. If he wants to throw his hat in the ring, he’ll have to do it over the next week or so.”
Now, let’s wait for Johnson to backtrack on what he has committed to with HS2, Heathrow, and urban motorways — for none of his previous stands would sell in Uxbridge. That’s baggage not wanted on voyage.
All of which will be oozing into the Press through though “Friends of George”.
A Favourite has no friend
Bottom line — if :
Boris Johnson is the early favourite among grassroots Tories to succeed David Cameron as leader, according to a poll conducted by Conservativehome.
That may be historical (2012) but Paul Goodman and ConHome are still, today, in the same groove:
If Cameron is Prime Minister after next May, Boris can serve in Cabinet when his mayoral term ends. And if he isn’t, Boris can contest the consequent leadership election, as he has every right to do. After all, he repeatedly comes in first or second in this site’s polls among Party members of future leaders.
Johnson should remember the fate of Thomas Gray’s Selima, Drown’d in a Tub of Gold Fishes, complete with those Classical allusions:
Eight times emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard;
A Favourite has no friend!
From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all that glisters, gold.