Boris's dilemma

Mayor still has ambitions for David Cameron's job. But his chances -- always slim in reality -- have

"He was stuck between a rock and a hard place," said a London Tory councillor of Boris Johnson's dilemma over whether to stand again as mayor of the capital. My source, who knows Johnson, explained that Johnson knew that had he pulled out, he risked being branded a "bottler" in the inevitable subsequent attempts to find a Parliamentary seat. His ambition to return to the Commons, compete with the current Tory leadership and climb the greasy poll, would also have been fully exposed at last.

On the other hand, there are real risks in his decision to run again. Labour did especially well in London in May, and senior Tories in the city are worried about Johnson's chances of winning again amid cuts and transport hikes. Different Tories say different things about who Boris fears most of his potential Labour opponents Ken Livingstone and Oona King. But there are always bluffs in that game, as there were when Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell deliberately put it about that Michael Portillo -- not Kenneth Clarke -- was the opponent they feared, as confirmed in Campbell's diaries.

My hunch is that Johnson has come very reluctantly to this decision. There was something unusually flat in his normally Wodehousian tones today. He maintains that he has "more chance of being decapitated by a Frisbee" than reaching Number Ten. He still wants it. But the reality may be sinking in that the plan has taken a knock back now. "He didn't really have a choice in the end," concludes my source. Johnson's best hope now is fighting Cameron and George Osborne on cuts and Crossrail, distancing himself perhaps a little more subtly than he has up to now, and remaining one of the most powerful Tories in the country. The fresh dilemma for him is that if he wins, he is locked into London for another term. if he loses his reputation will have been damaged before the early re-entry into the Commons that some say he seeks.

Whatever happens, there will be further clashes between this particular Tory and the Cameron top team, almost certainly starting at the Conservatives' conference in a few weeks' time.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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I believe only Yvette Cooper has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy Corbyn

All the recent polling suggests Andy Burnham is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy Corbyn, says Diana Johnson MP.

Tom Blenkinsop MP on the New Statesman website today says he is giving his second preference to Andy Burnham as he thinks that Andy has the best chance of beating Jeremy.

This is on the basis that if Yvette goes out first all her second preferences will swing behind Andy, whereas if Andy goes out first then his second preferences, due to the broad alliance he has created behind his campaign, will all or largely switch to the other male candidate, Jeremy.

Let's take a deep breath and try and think through what will be the effect of preferential voting in the Labour leadership.

First of all, it is very difficult to know how second preferences will switch. From my telephone canvassing there is some rather interesting voting going on, but I don't accept that Tom’s analysis is correct. I have certainly picked up growing support for Yvette in recent weeks.

In fact you can argue the reverse of Tom’s analysis is true – Andy has moved further away from the centre and, as a result, his pitch to those like Tom who are supporting Liz first is now narrower. As a result, Yvette is more likely to pick up those second preferences.

Stats from the Yvette For Labour team show Yvette picking up the majority of second preferences from all candidates – from the Progress wing supporting Liz to the softer left fans of Jeremy – and Andy's supporters too. Their figures show many undecideds opting for Yvette as their first preference, as well as others choosing to switch their first preference to Yvette from one of the other candidates. It's for this reason I still believe only Yvette has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy and then to go on to win in 2020.

It's interesting that Andy has not been willing to make it clear that second preferences should go to Yvette or Liz. Yvette has been very clear that she would encourage second preferences to be for Andy or Liz.

Having watched Andy on Sky's Murnaghan show this morning, he categorically states that Labour will not get beyond first base with the electorate at a general election if we are not economically credible and that fundamentally Jeremy's economic plans do not add up. So, I am unsure why Andy is so unwilling to be clear on second preferences.

All the recent polling suggests Andy is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy. He trails fourth in London – where a huge proportion of our electorate is based.

So I would urge Tom to reflect more widely on who is best placed to provide the strongest opposition to the Tories, appeal to the widest group of voters and reach out to the communities we need to win back. I believe that this has to be Yvette.

The Newsnight focus group a few days ago showed that Yvette is best placed to win back those former Labour voters we will need in 2020.

Labour will pay a massive price if we ignore this.

Diana Johnson is the Labour MP for Hull North.