The Prime Minister knows how damaging infighting between leadership hopefuls can be. Recent headlines about wrestles between Osborne/Gove/Boris have not only distracted from the real message of a return to growth, they carry with them an implicit pessimism about the outcome of the General Election – after all, why would anyone fight over the leadership now if they expected Cameron to be safely returned to Downing Street next year?
He also likes to hover above his colleagues, mostly staying out of earthly affairs and only swooping in as deus ex machina to solve problems when they become harmful to the government.
Both of those traits contribute to his front page turn in The Sun today, in which guest editor James Corden interviews him in aid of Sport Relief.
It’s a matey, fairly humorous environment in which he can safely intervene in what has so far been a less than matey or humorous scrap over who gets to be his successor:
‘JC If you are in a room together, like even if you are at the Olympic stadium and [Boris] is sat the other side of the stadium…
PM …he still makes me laugh…
JC …and you are sat the other side can you feel his eyes piercing at you going… Ghaaaaaaar – I want your job!?!
PM That is brilliant. No. It wouldn’t be a great job to have if people didn’t want it. There is nothing ignoble about wanting my job. But I thought he did brilliantly over the Olympics. He helped create that sense that this was a great time for Britain.
JC That is what I mean. Is that not annoying.
PM Definitely honestly no. I promise you, honestly no.
JC So am I right in thinking he has to run in the next election?
PM That is what I think he should do. I want to get him back in Parliament, I think he is a great. It a bit like football as we said earlier, if you have got a great striker you want him on the pitch. It is up to him. He can complete as Mayor, or he can stay on as Mayor and come back to the House. I want him on the team.’
It’s a way to apply some salve to Boris’s suspicions: if the Mayor thinks those in Downing Street are stitching the leadership up in his absence, the Prime Minister is out to reassure him that that is not the case. Cameron evidently intends to hug the prince over the water close – wisely, given the distraction or disruption that could arise from a further falling out.
This makes him the latest voice to join ConservativeHome in urging a 2015 Commons return for Boris.
Arcane solutions like that proposed by Stanley Johnson are no solution at all but a mere distraction. As Jackie Doyle-Price’s article on Wednesday and Theresa May’s continued success in our members’ poll suggest, Boris’ continued brinksmanship and flirtation over a possible Commons return are harming his prospects, as well as those of the Conservative Party.
He should dispel the doubts, and commit to stand as an MP next year – for his own good, as well as everyone else’s.