Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Boris Johnson: Will his ambitions be left hanging on a zip wire?

If it had happened to any other politician we would be laughing at him. It is a mark of Boris Johnson's unique political qualities that instead we are laughing with him.

But will those qualities ever take him to the leadership of the Conservative Party?

Benedict Brogan sounds like a Boris believer, but tells us that:
Westminster is divided between those who now believe him to be unstoppable, and those who can’t stop laughing at the idea that he is being taken seriously as an alternative prime minister.
Steve Richards says:
There is only one Tory leadership contest Boris could win and that would follow the next general election if Cameron failed again to secure an overall majority. I have spoken to Tory MPs who are certain that in such circumstances, there would be a challenge to Cameron. Some believe Cameron would resign. In order to win, Boris would need to be in the Commons after the next election and to fight a contest against the background of a fatally damaged Cameron brand. And yet in order to get to the Commons, Boris would seem like an over-ambitious, disloyal leader-in-waiting, and that would make him far less attractive than he is at the moment.
But Richards surely overstates his case. Yes, to get close to the Conservative leadership Johnson will have to make himself less attractive than he is now, but that is inevitable. As mayor of London in Olympic year he is close to appearing above party politics, but that is never going to last whatever happens. So he may as well further his ambitions while he becomes less popular.

There are, I judge, two factors that may stand between Johnson and the leadership of his party - or between him and No. 10 if he achieves that goal.

The first is his bumbling style. Though we are frequently told Boris Johnson is brilliant, but I cannot recall hearing him complete a coherent sentence. It is hard to see this as an appealing quality in a potential prime minister, so he would have to change his act.

The second is the Eton factor. It is possible that the Conservatives or the wider electorate will have had enough of posh boys by the time the next election comes. The irony is that, for all his Bertie Wooster act, Johnson was not born to this world - his effortless superiority has involved a great deal of hard work. Read Sonia Purnell's excellent Just Boris and you will learn that he attended the same North London state primary school as the Miliband brothers.

Boris Johnson, quite arguably, has better liberal and modernising credentials than David Cameron, but I am not convinced that, having embraced him as a comedy toff, voters would be prepared to recognise that at an election.

1 comment:

TW said...

What I will never forget about Boris is seeing him snoring in the president's chair at the Oxford Union back in the mid 1980s.