Boris paves way for Tory leadership challenge with plan for comeback as Henley MP


Boris Johnson is preparing an extraordinary comeback as MP for his old constituency of Henley, paving the way for him to fight a leadership election during the next parliament, under a plan being drawn up inside his camp.

The Mayor of London went to war with David Cameron last week, criticising what he called a "fudgearama" over Heathrow airport, overshadowing the Prime Minister's reshuffle and fuelling speculation that he will challenge for the Tory leadership after the next election.

Mr Johnson's allies last night insisted he would serve his "full term" as mayor until 2016, but after that would be ready to stand in a by-election. And a separate source inside the Henley constituency said that the former MP would be "welcomed back with open arms" to the Tory safe seat.

A friend said: "Boris has had a gold-medal Olympics. He will concentrate on being mayor for a full term and will try and convert those that doubt he is a serious politician. Any constituency would want him, although he has a house in Henley."

It has been suggested that Mr Johnson could stand in a by-election in Richmond Park, south-west London, if the Conservative Zac Goldsmith resigned in protest over the Government's plans to expand Heathrow. But Mr Goldsmith's 4,091 majority is regarded as not safe enough compared with Henley, where Mr Johnson's successor, John Howell, has a majority of 16,588.

One theory is that Mr Johnson would complete his four-year term as mayor in 2016 and put himself forward for a by-election that year. If Mr Cameron lost the 2015 election, he could stand aside as Tory leader, triggering an immediate leadership race which would exclude Mr Johnson. However, if he remained leader in opposition, giving his potential successors time to build up support, there is growing speculation in Tory circles that the leadership race would be in 2018.

But the Henley plan will no doubt be of surprise to Mr Howell, who is not standing down.

In the wake of the reshuffle last Tuesday, Mr Johnson launched a frontal assault on Mr Cameron after the PM moved the Putney MP Justine Greening from her job as transport secretary to International Development, in the clearest signal yet that a third runway is back on the table.

He condemned the setting up of a review into airport capacity in the South-east, headed by the former CBI boss Howard Davies, as it would not be completed for three years.

Asked whether he would fight a parliamentary by-election against Heathrow expansion, Mr Johnson said, cryptically: "My job is to follow the interests of the people of London. I was elected on a very clear mandate to oppose the third runway at Heathrow – expansion of Heathrow – that, indeed, is the mandate on which this government was elected, and that's what I'd like to see and do."

Downing Street retaliated by briefing a veiled warning to Mr Johnson: "We will see what happens the next time he comes around with the begging bowl. He might need us one day."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living