Boris Johnson broke his “solemn vow” not to simultaneously sit as a Westminster MP while governing London after announcing he will stand in next year’s election.
The move puts an end to years of speculation about Mr Johnson’s intentions and now clears the way for him to stand for the Tory leadership after the next election.
Downing Street was given no advance warning of Mr Johnson’s announcement which completely overshadowed a campaign by the Conservatives to focus attention this week on the Government’s economic record. However, the Tories will ask him to play a key role campaigning for them in the run up to the election and is an almost certain contender for the Tory leadership should the party be defeated.
Mr Johnson’s term as Mayor runs until the summer of 2016 meaning, if he is elected as an MP in 2015, he will spend a year juggling both roles – which he has claimed on many occasions in the past he would not do.
“I made a solemn vow to Londoners to lead them out of recession, bring down crime and deliver the growth, investment and jobs that this city so desperately needs. Keeping that promise cannot be combined with any other political capacity,” Mr Johnson told The Evening Standard after his re-election in 2012. But during a question and answer session following a speech on Britain’s relationship with the EU, Mr Johnson revealed he had changed his mind.
“I think we’ve danced around it an awfully long time now and as you know the Prime Minister ages ago said he would welcome me back – very kind of him to say so – and has also been pretty clear that I can’t endlessly go on dodging these questions as I’ve tried to do,” he said. “So, let me put it this way – I have not got any particular seat lined up, but I do think in all probability – since you can’t do these things furtively, I might as well be absolutely clear – in all probability I will try to find somewhere to stand in 2015. But one thing that is absolutely clear, I will serve out my mandate here in London.”
Yesterday’s announcement clears a path to the Tory leadership for Mr Johnson, should David Cameron resign after the general election, as under Conservative rules only sitting MPs can stand for election.
However, he would face a strong challenge from other senior Conservatives including Home Secretary Theresa May, Chancellor George Osborne and possibly a representative of the Tories’ 2010 intake that makes up around half the Parliamentary party.
It remains unclear where exactly Mr Johnson will stand as an MP, but the most likely is the safe seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip in west London, where the former deputy whip Sir John Randall is retiring.
“This is a matter for the [local Conservative] association. I am not going to presume to talk about which seat I might go for,” the Mayor said.
When asked whether he was aiming for the PM’s job, Mr Johnson responded: “No – I don’t want to revert to weasel mode here.”
Andrew Mitchell, Conservative former International Development Secretary, said he was “pleased” Mr Johnson had decided to return to Parliament after being MP for Henley from 2001 to 2008.
“I think he is a remarkable politician – he reaches parts of the voting public which others do not reach,” he said.
Mr Mitchell’s views were echoed by Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, who said it was “fantastic news”. “He’s a huge asset for London at the moment, he’s been a huge asset for the Conservative party and if he actually does get elected in 2015, he’ll be a huge asset for the country,” Mr Javid said.
However, Mr Johnson’s decision was criticised by Labour’s Sadiq Khan, the shadow minister for London.
In his own words: Bojo’s U-turn
May 2012: “I made a solemn vow to Londoners to lead them out of recession, bring down crime and deliver the growth, investment and jobs that this city so desperately needs. Keeping that promise cannot be combined with any other political capacity.”
October 2012: Tells the Tory party conference that a return to parliament before May 2016 “was not going to happen”, adding that speculation over a leadership bid was “getting beyond satire”.
March 2013: Asked by a Tory party member if he would like to return to Parliament he replied: “No. I intend to carry on as Mayor of London.”
August 2013: According to report in Spectator, which he used to edit, he told “friends” he had no plan to run as an MP in 2015.
Oct 2013: Asked about his plans for 2015 he said was planning to “take up romantic novels under the pseudonym Rosie M Banks and try and survive by producing airport bonk-busters.”
December 2013: Asked whether he would stand for Parliament in 2015 he replied: “No, because I have got a huge amount of work to do and I can’t see how I could.”
March 2014: On reports that Osborne made a personal approach asking him to stand as an MP: “I haven’t had a conversation of any such kind... I am so sick of this subject.”
July 2014: “What I can tell you is that I will deliver my mandate as Mayor of London.”
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies