A Boris Johnson return to the Commons at the next election would be win-win – both for Boris himself and the Conservatives. If David Cameron leaves Downing Street after it takes place, Boris will then be able to stand in a leadership election which would be less complete without the presence of the most popular politician in the country. And if Cameron instead gains a second term as Prime Minister, the Party’s biggest vote winner (he gained over a million last time round) will surely be asked to join the Cabinet.
Although it has been suggested that Boris is unwilling to serve under Cameron (which would reflect very badly on him were the claim true), my information is that this not necessarily the case. The biggest figure in local government in the country and trailblazer for Boris Island may believe that CLG or Transport would be beneath him. But he might look differently on the prospect of being transformed into a kind of latter-day Michael Heseltine – a Blonde Vizier or Imperial Lama of business, industrial strategy, cities, universities, infrastructure, transport and skills. He would have to do without the Deputy Prime Minister title that John Prescott and Peter Mandelson also enjoyed, but wider still and wider would his bounds be set. Business. Industrial Strategy. Cities. Universities. Infrastructure. Transport and Skills. Boris would be Secretary of State for B.I.S.C.U.I.T.S.
However, a black cloud threatens to render invisible these silver linings. The announcement by London’s Mayor of an intended Westminster return would be seized on by the lobby and others as confirmation that he expects Cameron to lose the next election. The danger for the Prime Minister is that, by issuing such a proclamation, Boris would do for him (though in a completely different way) what Lord Rennard is currently doing for Nick Clegg – i.e: destabilise his leadership. How might this circle of doom be happily squared?
The crucial date is October of this year – or Party Conference, to be precise. Were Boris simply to turn up and announce his intention of returning to the Commons, he could do to this year’s conference what he did to that of 2009 (when he “threw down the gauntlet to David Cameron to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty”), and threatened to do to that of 2012 when he was mobbed at Birmingham’s New Street station. The Conservative election campaign would then disrupted by noises offstage for the next six months – in other words, by Boris’s hunt for a suitable constituency. Will Chuffnell Poges have him? Will he pitch for Sin City South-West? What will Zac do? Is the Chancellor trying to block the Mayor? And so on. A better course would be to have the whole thing done and dusted by the time the conference takes place.
It may of course be that no more Conservative MPs are planning to announce their retirement before 2015, or that even if this isn’t the case no Boris-shaped vacancy arises. But I doubt it, and so do you. This being so, Boris should issue his promulgation at some point between the Euro-elections and the conference, Sir Bufton Tufton should obligingly stand down…and the Mayor should be enfolded within the comforting bosom of Biggin Hill Conservative Association.
Cameron would then give an interview or say a few words at a press conference indicating that Boris would take the B.I.S.C.U.I.T.S in any Conservative or Tory-led Government, and the way would be paved for the two men to be photographed together in a Peace and Reconciliation Moment. As political gambits go, this wouldn’t exactly be a counsel of perfection but it would definitely be making the best of a tricky job. And Boris would be on his way to Cabinet…or to something else. By the time even the most cursory of leadership elections was completed it would be the autumn of 2015. That would leave a gap of some six months for a Deputy Mayor to fill before the next Mayoral election (and no messy by-election would be required). This would be making the best of an even more tricky job, should the circumstances arise. Note to readers: this editorial in no sense constitutes an endorsement.