Boris shows he's serious about succeeding Cameron

The Mayor's decision to swat aside Theresa May shows he's determined to emerge as the PM's natural replacement.

Stop undermining David Cameron, that's my job! That, roughly speaking, is the message from Boris Johnson's interview in today's Sun. Following Theresa May's barely concealed leadership pitch, the Mayor tells the paper: 

If ministers are setting out their stall now, it strikes me as being very odd. They should save their breath and cool their porridge. Put a sock in it and get on and back the Prime Minister.

He adds: "David Cameron is doing a fantastic job. I am backing him. It’s mid term. People need some sort of political drama so they’re inventing one. I think it’s complete nonsense."

As usual, the Mayor's motives are not hard to discern. A pre-2015 leadership election, before he's had a chance to get back into parliament, would be disastrous for his ambition to succeed Cameron. And that ambition is now rarely disguised. 

As well as swatting May aside, Boris has also used this week to confirm that he'll be available when the PM falls. When asked whether he could become Prime Minister, the Mayor usually replies that there is more chance of him "being reincarnated as an olive". But speaking at a business conference in France earlier this week, he struck a markedly different tone. "It would be completely wrong of me to abandon my post," he said, before adding: "After 2016 who knows what will happen. But I'm very, very happy with the job of Mayor of London."

With Cameron's position ever more precarious, Boris has decided that the time for joking is over. He's set his sights on becoming Prime Minister and is determined to stop anyone who gets in his way. 

Boris Johnson now says of succeeding David Cameron: "After 2016 who knows what will happen". Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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