Is Boris Johnson's U-turn worth the risk? Machiavelli might have seen the flaws

 

Share

Boris Johnson’s confirmation that he will stand as a Tory MP at the next election must, despite his repeated denials over the years, be one of the least unexpected or remarkable political announcements in recent years.

Put it this way: what good reason would the maniacally ambitious, Machiavellian, potential Tory leader have not to stand for Parliament?

But Mr Johnson’s decision is not, as some commentators may suggest, a threat to David Cameron, who sanctioned and even encouraged the plan at a private meeting earlier this year.

The reason is this: if Boris is to have any hope of succeeding Mr Cameron after the election he will need to be – and be seen to be – a loyal and active campaigner in the run up to 2015.

If he isn’t and the Tories lose he will be blamed by the Conservative Parliamentary party and will never even make it to the ballot of the wider party membership.

So Mr Cameron gets Boris inside the Tory tent and singing from a hymn sheet set by Lynton Crosby, who masterminded Boris’s own victory as Mayor of London.

And if Mr Cameron does defy electoral odds to win an overall majority at the next election there simply won’t be a vacancy for the top job.

Mr Cameron will then be free to appoint the Mayor to whatever Cabinet post he thinks will do most damage to his personal credibility and neutralise him as a future leadership threat.

So if the Tories win the general election in 2015, we can look forward to Boris Johnson the Local Government Secretary – of which he has experience – or perhaps a spell as Health Secretary.

And if the Tories lose, the pressure for Mr Cameron to resign will be overwhelming, regardless of whether Mr Johnson is an MP or not.

The Prime Minister will quickly 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 for five years in the wilderness.

But even then, Boris is far from a shoo-in for the leadership. So far he has led a charmed political life but he has skeletons in his closet that would come under intense scrutiny in any future Tory leadership campaign and which might make the predominantly elderly Tory membership think twice about the blond bombshell.

For a start he has sired two children outside his marriage, with two different women. One, now a four-year-old, resulted from an affair with the art consultant Helen Macintyre. Then there was the affair with the journalist Petronella Wyatt, which resulted in one abortion and a miscarriage.

On both occasions Boris’s long suffering wife Marina, the mother of his four other children, threw him out of the house. Boris, meanwhile, lied about the affair with Ms Wyatt (including to the then Tory leader, Michael Howard), describing reports of their relationship as “an inverted pyramid of piffle”.

When Ms Macintyre sought an injunction on behalf of her daughter to prevent details of the child’s conception becoming public, the High Court refused.

The judges ruled that Johnson had achieved a “level of notoriety” in his philandering and that fathering two children “goes to the issue of recklessness … relevant to both his private and professional character”.

Then there is the issue of his dismissal from The Times for making up quotes, and the existence of a tape recording where he agreed to supply a friend – later convicted of fraud – with the address of a journalist whom the friend wished to “beat up”.

“You’re a nasty piece of work, aren’t you?” asked the television presenter Eddie Mair, in an extraordinary interview in which he catalogued all of the London Mayor’s past indiscretions.

All that may ultimately prove too much baggage for Mr Johnson to overcome. But as a maniacally ambitious, Machiavellian potential Tory leader, he thinks it’s still worth a shot.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd end the war on drugs

Patrick Hennessey
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
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