There's something about Boris
Boris Johnson may wish to retire gracefully by 2016. Or he may just fancy a crack at the hardest job in the country
What is it about Boris Johnson that gives Tories hope for the future? With the coalition experiencing serious midterm blues, Boris’s spectacular win in the London Mayoral election was a bright spark on an otherwise dark day for Conservatives.
So why does he attract such adoration from his party while Cameron struggles to prove himself in the eyes of the right? Both come from similarly privileged backgrounds, both are talented politicians and both are excellent orators. But while Cameron’s ‘poshness’ is used as a weapon to paint him as out-of-touch, Boris is seen as an affable extrovert. Cameron is treated with suspicion by right-wing backbenchers who look at Boris and see a potential future leader; quite the transformation for someone who was once known as being a gaff prone oddball.
When I telecanvassed for the Boris campaign in the run up to the election, I was shocked by the responses I got from traditional Labour voters. A few were negative about Boris, but they were very clearly in the minority. Most of them considered Boris to be a competent Mayor, as well as a genuine character - not a common description of a politician in recent times. Many were considering voting for Boris, and not just because of Ken Livingstone’s tax dodging and other assorted mishaps.
Ever since the election, he has used his weekly article in the Sunday Telegraph to advocate sound conservatism. From attacking the statist and biased BBC to denouncing the Euro, he has been throwing red meat to conservatives in London and all over the country. Cynics may view this as positioning, but in reality he just knows what people want to hear.
He has also received a fair amount of reflected glory after the huge success of the Diamond Jubilee. Even during these difficult financial times, all of London came together to show the Queen their appreciation. A small group of bitter republicans were forced to realise that they are in the absolute minority when it comes to the Monarchy. With the Olympics rapidly approaching, London will once again come together for a seminal event. Of course there will be difficulties with transport and some things are bound to go wrong, but in general London will enjoy being the centre of attention with the world watching, and Boris will be right there in the middle of it all.
In stark contrast, Cameron can only look forward to a rapidly disintegrating Coalition, increasingly vocal backbenchers and the spectre of Europe falling apart. He must have looked on at Boris winning in London with envy. Boris even felt secure enough on election night to quip that his campaign had ‘survived the endorsement of David Cameron’.
You can be sure that there are elements of the Conservative Party already attempting to plan a route for Boris from City Hall to Downing Street, even though there are numerous obstacles in his path, not least his assertion that he doesn’t want the job. History, though, is littered with politicians who have gone back on their word and taken the top job when it is available. Much could change between now and 2015. Any Conservative association around the country would be more than happy to have Boris stand in their constituency in a by-election, although this would obviously be seen by Cameron’s team as a declaration of war.
Boris has set himself some ambitious aims for this Mayoralty, not least the automation of the London Underground. The rail unions will fight tooth and nail to protect their exorbitant pay, but public support is rapidly seeping away from them. Any public goodwill they once had has been lost as Londoners grow weary of spurious protracted strikes and constant demands for bonuses. The City is also under threat from an EU jealous of our position as a financial powerhouse, but we must hope that Number 10 will refuse to kowtow to demands for a financial transaction tax which would cripple the City.
If he can deliver on his pledges like he did in the previous four years, we could have a very different London come 2016. At that point, he may wish to retire gracefully. Or he just may fancy a crack at the hardest job in the country.
Frank Manning is the Campaigns Coordinator for the Young Britons' Foundation, a non-partisan, not-for-profit educational, research and training organisation that promotes conservatism in schools, colleges and universities. He tweets at @BillyManning
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