Boris Johnson is letting Iain Duncan Smith run his campaign – we might as well give Hunt the keys to No 10 now

You also have to wonder how the front-runner’s already fractious, backbiting and overcrowded coterie of cronies and advisers will cope with having this career-cursed man as their chief, nominal or not

Sean O'Grady
Tuesday 25 June 2019 16:27 BST
Boris Johnson says that he makes models of buses

So that’s that, then. Get your money on Jeremy Hunt now. You can still get about 4/1 at the bookies.

Surely it’s all over for Boris Johnson. He has committed by far his greatest blunder so far, at least in this leadership contest. He has appointed Iain Duncan Smith as his campaign manager.

That’s right. IDS. The man who was so incompetent a leader that his party got rid of him back in 2003. The man who helped (with George Osborne) make such a mess of universal credit. The man who resigned from the Cabinet on the very issue of welfare reform, just when it was past time for his departure to make any difference.

He also quit, in 2016, just before all his Eurosceptic Christmases came at once and Leave won the EU referendum. (He's been out of the cabinet ever since). The “Quiet Man” with the permanent frog in his throat. The one cartooned as Dracula sucking the blood from benefit claimants. The one who was attacked for employing his wife Betsy as his assistant on the taxpayer. The one who couldn't lay a glove on Tony Blair. The one who made Michael Howard look like a vote magnet.

That one.

You can see what Johnson is up to. IDS, like Margaret Thatcher, the poll tax and rickets, is revered by the Tory grassroots as part of a better yesterday. Johnson thinks that sticking this idiot out front will persuade even more of them to forgive his foibles and elect him as leader of the party, whatever fresh revelations emerge about his late night habits. I even read in the Express recently (someone has to do the monitoring) that Johnson was going to appoint IDS as deputy prime minister when he gets to Number 10.

IDS will, apparently, be running an expanded Cabinet Office which will take in the Brexit department. Which at least gives IDS all the incentive he needs to try and do a good job. And Johnson is a convenient fall-guy for when all the no deal preparations turn to dust.

You also have to wonder how Johnson’s already fractious, backbiting and overcrowded coterie of cronies and advisers will cope with having IDS as their chief, nominal or not. As the wheels fell off this Boris bus (not the wooden model ones he purports to enjoy making in his downtime. Or the £350m one. Or the loss-making ruinous London ones), the blame started to be thrown around about whose fault it was that the “transition” from MPs' stage to membership had gone so badly.

Was it Mark Fullbrook or Lynton Crosby or David Canzini from CTF Partners? Or James Wharton or Grant Shapps, long-time Johnsonites? Or perhaps Johnson’s unofficial chief whip Gavin Williamson? Or Steve Bannon? Or poor old Carrie Symonds? Or Johnson himself? (perish the thought). Some think he should get out there on a media blitz (as he is now doing – though to selected outlets). They want him to offer a bit more than “positive energy” on Brexit.

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Others want to leave Johnson in a bunker until the vote is over. Some want him to spill the beans, so to speak, over Symonds. Others to keep shtum. Johnson stubbornly refuses to talk about his “loved ones” anyway (which presumably means he is most unwilling to speak about the person he loves most in the world – Boris Johnson).

And so on. Is this a taste of who he is going to run Downing Street with?

Leadership campaigns have enough logistical problems, ego clashes and tricky policy dilemmas without having to deal with the candidate's personal crises.

When things go wrong – even if the candidate is still winning – there are wobbly moments and sharp changes in direction and blame-throwing and general chaos.

They are exacerbated when no-one is in charge. The campaign, like the UK, needs calm, deliberate leadership by someone with brains, drive, strategic sense and who commands the respect of all around them.

And Johnson sent for IDS!

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