Those who think the entire Conservative Party and British electorate would instantly fall in behind Boris Johnson are hopelessly deluded.
That might seem an odd headline at any time for the Conservatives to swallow, but bear with me: I bring evidence to the table.
You doubtless saw at least some of the joke non-stories at the weekend about plotter-Boris being offered Zac Goldsmith’s safe seat to fight on the issue of Heathrow’s third runway. After drilling down, it was all tosh, to be frank: Johnson rejected the idea outright. But it suits the Mail to keep the pressure on Cameron, whom it loathes. Equally, the Telegraph will print anything about Boris so long as he says something anti-Cameron, or does something bone-headed like holding his own ‘enquiry’ into Heathrow vs Elsewhere on the runways thing. For the Barclays despise Cameron even more than Dacre does.
My favourite MP Bob Stewart also got dragged into it at one point, and once again made it clear (by the end of the ‘story’) that he had no intention of standing against Cameron as a stalking horse. Bob too thinks these stories are all tosh, and as usual he is right on the money.
It would be tricky for Johnson in the medium-term to dump the People of London (who so unwisely voted him in) for a crack at the Conservative leadership via some fall-guy safe seat. As yet, no genuine fall-guy has come forward: the truth is, a large section of the Tory Party wouldn’t have Boris at any price. I think in a straight fight, he could win against the Prime Minister – if Cameron was widely viewed within the leadership electorate as a lame duck. But far too many observers misunderstand the definition of lame-duckness in play here.
This is the stripped down situation, with all the red-herring nuances and false trails removed: the shadowy folks want rid of Cameron at the earliest opportunity. Most of them want out of the EU too.
Cameron blew it with Ashcroft during the May 2010 election, because he failed to give secretly Tory voters a clear roadmap for substantive change. A trimmer by nature, Dave tried to please everyone and wound up in a Coalition the shadowy men loathe even more than they despise him.
The Barclay Brothers’ first target was David Laws, followed swiftly by Vince Cable…although the latter blew up in their faces when, despite attempts to damage any advantage to Murdoch’s BSkyB bid, the full story was leaked to Robert Peston, and gave Jeremy Hunt the opening he’d been after since 2008. Hunt himself however fell foul of the Sark Twins as he blatantly ploughed forward with his promotion of the Newscorp bid.
For some time now, the Barclays have been behind Boris Johnson all the way. He virtually uses the Telegraph as his Mayoral House Magazine, but to be on the safe side, Johnson has continued to cultivate Murdoch, because that gives him another ally in his tireless mission to turf David Cameron out of Number Ten Downing St.
In turn, the oleaginous *unt sticks close to the munneeee too, as we have seen…and close to Boris, hedging his bets. Longer term, however, Jeremy – laughable I know, but true – sees himself as leadership material. And some of the older business Conservative money in the Soho area wants him as the figurehead too.
But there’s a big thing in the way of both Jezzer and BoJo: the Knights of Camerlot are in possession of focus group research suggesting very strongly that neither man would play well north of Watford. So although some elements on the Right would like to see a Johnson/Hunt ticket, the likes of Northern Rightists like Malcolm Brady would take a lot of persuading.
The problem Camerlot has had from Day One of the Coalition is that nobody likes them: they started out being tolerated, until people on both the Left and Right of national politics found them intolerable. Now the media knives are out, and the showdowns are coming: the EU and education in the case of the Brady Bunch, and the Third Heathrow runway in the case of the Borisons.
The loyalty to Cameron of the Ministers running those key areas of policy is now in severe doubt. Hague remains a Camerlot loyalist, but Gove is shifting over with the prevailing wind, Hunt is already (by one means or another) holding the PM to ransom, and Osborne has his own agenda as always. Only Ollie Letwin plods stoically on. The additional dilemma for Dave in all this is that the very people who are in one way or another loyal to him are the same ones the Mad Folks would like to dump: Hague, Osborne and Letwin.
All these key factors could be parked in the medium term were it not for two considerations. First and foremost, Mayor Johnson has shortened the potential timescale by making Heathrow a flashpoint…specifically with his daft idea of having his own ‘enquiry’. And second, the Liberal Democrats are close to being so completely out of the cage, the Conservative Right has had about as much as it can take.
But Johnson knows exactly what his timescale is, and why. He sees the Coalition collapsing quite soon, and the Prime Minister being backed unwillingly into an election…which he will lose. He Boris will then be begged by primed beggars to cross town and re-enter the Commons as a national duty. He will become Leader, and await the chaotic collapse of a Labour government enjoying zero confidence in the markets. And then the Mighty Boris will finally complete the sale of BritPol Ltd to Scumbag plc…the Newscorps, Barclays, Bankers, multinationals and non-Doms he so readily admires, along with his equally grubby chum Michael Fallon.
There are umpteen problems with this career path, but the biggest I suspect is BoJo’s dual assumption that (1) the British people will stand idly by and watch this happen and (2) the Conservative Party will fall into line behind him in a dutifully docile manner. My own feeling is that what the Tories will do is split apart at the seams.
Some will head for UKIP – although Johnson may well try to do a deal with Farage – some of the centre-Left MPs will form a sort of internal opposition, and some Camerlot Knights will plot a repositioning of themselves…in the hope of carrying the centre-Left along as fellow-travellers.
“Bring it on” is my bottom line on this one: the quicker seismic fiscal economics and wild ambition undermine the cosy duopoly at Westminster, the better. And I increasingly believe that mature voters could control the vital coastal seats in the end, as a means of forcing that change in an almost peaceful manner.
Stay tuned. We may all be fed up of living in interesting times, but perhaps they are about to get more constructively interesting.