By Tim Montgomerie
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Two pieces of news about Borismania.
As I reveal in my column for today's Daily Mail I understand that Rupert Murdoch and Boris Johnson met recently and there was active discussion of a scenario in which David Cameron was replaced as Tory leader in 2014. The clear implication was that Mr Murdoch would throw the weight of The Sun behind Boris Johnson if, if, if he was in position to stand as Tory leader. Boris did not protest. Yesterday the media baron was Boris Johnson's guest at the Olympics. The Mail has a photograph.
I think the chance of Boris becoming Tory leader in this parliament isn't much higher than 20% but contrary to the consensus I think it's more likely in this parliament than after the next election. Boris equals a big gamble. The party will only embrace him if it feels it's in a very bad place. Unless Cameron changes course the next election is going to be very tough to win. After the next election, if the Tories lose, the party will probably choose someone who will deliver a long-term rebuild. If things are looking bad in two years' time, however, there'll be no time for a big strategic shift. The party will need a quick fix and that quick fix could be Boris.
I can also reveal that Michael Howard now wishes he hadn't sacked Boris Johnson after an affair with Petronella Wyatt had been revealed in 2004. Johnson had been the then Tory leader's shadow culture spokesman. Mr Howard makes the concession during a Radio 4 profile of London's Mayor – due to be broadcast at 7pm today. "I think I was wrong to sack him and it’s something I regret," says Mr Howard.
Liverpool FC supporter Michael Howard also remembers the famous apology tour to Merseyside that Mr Johnson was forced to make after a leading article had appeared in The Spectator (which Boris then edited) and which was critical of Liverpool:
"Well I was pretty angry when I read the article and so I saw Boris and said I want you to go to Liverpool and want you to apologise to the people of Liverpool and to give him credit that’s exactly what he did and I don’t think it was a very comfortable experience for him – but he did it and I think he did it in good part."
Paul Goodman has turned to Twitter to list the obstacles to Boris ever becoming Tory leader but his conclusion was… "[I] have a sneaking feeling he'll probably make it, though, somehow."