Boris continues to hedge his bets

"At the moment, I don't want to be prime minister".

"At the moment, I don't want to be prime minister." After emerging as the big political winner from the Olympics, it's little surprise that Boris Johnson is hedging his bets. Speaking on ITV's Daybreak this morning, he mischievously added: "How could anybody elect a prat who gets stuck in a zip wire? How on earth could you elect that guy?", fully aware that his endearing gaffes are an essential part of his appeal.

Elsewhere, he again noted: "I have got four years of mayor of London ahead". Yet, as I've noted before, there is no constitutional obstacle to him becoming an MP in 2015 while remaining Mayor until 2016. Indeed, there is a precedent. After the 2000 mayoral election, Ken Livingstone remained the MP for Brent East until 2001. As one senior Conservative told the Independent earlier this year:

He could not wear two hats for a long period but doing it for 12 months would not cause a great controversy. Tory associations in London and the Home Counties would queue up to have him as their candidate. He would say he was representing London in Parliament for a year.

It is notable that the Mayor has never publicly ruled out becoming an MP while remaining Mayor of London. When questioned on the subject by Prospect magazine, he "declined to comment but gave a low laugh."

As Cameron's political fortunes continue to decline, it is notable that a growing number of Labour figures now view Boris as the primary threat to their party's hopes of a sustained period in government. The ferocity with which Jacqui Smith denounces the Mayor in her Progress blog (declaring that "people should not be taken in" by him) is evidence of what the party sees as a need to puncture the Boris myth now.

Boris Johnson: not ruling out a bid for the top. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.