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By Tim Montgomerie
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Eight years ago Toby Young agreed to a £15,000 bet with Nigella Lawson (yep, you read that correctly – £15,000). He wagered that Boris Johnson will be Tory leader by 2018. He writes about this bet and his reasons for his continuing belief in Boris in this week's Spectator. Here are two key extracts of a piece that isn't yet online:

  • Boris' ability to trascend traditional politics: "Since entering City Hall Boris has wasted no time trying to curry favour with backbench Conservative MPs, a constituency he must win over if he’s to have a chance. He has positioned himself to the right of Cameron on a range of issues, including bankers’ bonuses, police cuts, sentencing reform, the 50p tax rate, strike laws and a European referendum. This is a difficult thing to pull off when he simultaneously has to persuade the London electorate that he’s to the left of the party when it comes to immigration and welfare reform, yet he’s done it. In addition to being the people’s mayor who sits above party politics, he’s the true blue Tory in contrast to Agent Zigzag in Downing Street. In this, as in so many areas of his life, Boris has managed to have it both ways. ‘My policy on cake is pro-having it and pro-eating it,’ he told Time magazine in 2007."
  • Boris' tangible authenticity: "Boris seems incapable of being anything other than himself. This is Cameron’s Achilles heel, according to Lord Ashcroft’s polling — the suspicion among the electorate that he isn’t one of them and cannot relate to their problems. The weird thing is, Boris doesn’t suffer from this problem. Quite the opposite. As anyone who’s spent any time with him on the streets of London can tell you, he enjoys a connection with the public that Cameron can only dream of. Taxi drivers honk their horns with delight and newspaper vendors greet him with cries of, ‘Awright Boris?’ Precisely because he’s less inhibited about being a toff, he enjoys the popular appeal that Cameron lacks — though, to confuse matters, it’s all a music hall turn. It’s one of the great paradoxes of contemporary politics that Boris is more comfortable pretending to be something he’s not than Cameron is about being who he really is."

(Update: Toby Young has written about his bet at The Telegraph).

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