i Whitehall Editor's Letter: Scheming, charismatic, ambitious: is Boris Johnson the leader Conservative voters want?


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The Independent Online

Boris Johnson’s plan to stand as a Conservative MP must, despite his denials over the years, be one of the least surprising political announcements. Put it this way: what reason would the manically ambitious, Machiavellian potential Tory leader have not to stand for Parliament?

Despite what some people will say,  this is not really a threat to David Cameron, who encouraged the plan at  a private meeting. If Boris is to have any hope of succeeding him he will need to be seen to be a loyal campaigner. If he isn’t and the Tories lose in May, he would be blamed by the Conservative Parliamentary party. So Mr Cameron gets Boris inside the Tory tent and singing to a hymn sheet written by Lynton Crosby.

If Mr Cameron does defy electoral odds and wins a majority in May there  simply won’t be a vacancy. He will be  free to appoint Boris to whatever Cabinet post he thinks will do most damage to his credibility and neutralise him as a leadership threat in the future. If Mr Cameron is feeling especially cruel, look forward to Boris  the Local Government Secretary.

And if the Tories lose? Well in that case the pressure for Mr Cameron to resign will be overwhelming regard- less. The Prime Minister will fall on his sword, take to the international lecture circuit and probably care little whether it’s Boris, Theresa May or some other unfortunate who has to lead the party in the wilderness.

One final point is worth making:  Mr Johnson has led a charmed political life so far but has skeletons that might not survive the scrutiny of a leadership campaign – among them a poor record of marital fidelity and once being sacked as a journalist for making up quotes. Do the Tory shires really want a leader, no matter how telegenic and charismatic, with such a record?