By declaring his interest in Parliament, Boris has also indicated an interest in the Tory leadership. Photo: Getty
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Boris Johnson announces that he will stand as an MP in 2015

He says he intends to serve out his second term as London Mayor, and does not have a specific constituency in his sights yet.

Boris Johnson has declared his intention to stand as an MP in 2015, after years of speculation that he wants to return to parliament.

He made the statement in response to a question after a speech at Bloomberg on the EU this morning. He said:

I can't endlessly go on dodging these questions... Let me put it this way. I haven't got any particular seat lined up but I do think in all probability I will try to find somewhere to stand in 2015.”

He went on to say that he has every intention of serving out his full second term as London Mayor, though. If he is successful, this would mean he would be both an MP and London Mayor until the 2016 mayoral election. This isn't unprecedented – Ken Livingstone continued to serve as MP for Brent East until the 2001 election after he became mayor in 2000.

Johnson said: “It is highly likely I will be unsuccessful in that venture, by the way. You can never underestimate the possibility of things going badly wrong. But I will try that.” He was previously MP for Henley from 2001 to 2008 before standing as Mayor.

When asked if he intended to return to parliament in order to stand for the Tory leadership, he said: “No. I don't want revert to weasel mode here.” He also said that he was making the announcement now to “clear the air” before the Conservative party conference in September.

Londoners may be surprised to hear that Johnson is considering adding an MP’s duties to his workload as Mayor. During the 2012 mayoral election, he told the Evening Standard of his “solemn vow” to make the city his priority:

If I am fortunate enough to win I will need four years to deliver what I have promised. And having put trust at the heart of this election, I would serve out that term in full...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.”

By finally ending the speculation about his return to arliament, Boris has kicked off a whole new round of whispers – this time about the Tory leadership. It has long been assumed that Boris intended to try and succeed David Cameron as leader. Now we can be fairly certain that’s the job he’s really aiming for.

Labour MP Sadiq Khan, who is almost certain to stand for London mayor in 2016, said:

London is a city facing huge challenges – unprecendented population growth, a desperate housing crisis and rocketing inequality. Under Boris Johnson no progress has been made in meeting any of these challenges. As a lifelong Londoner I want to see a mayor who is dedicated to making our city the best place in the world to live. A mayor who puts London first.

Boris Johnson has made it absolutely clear today that his priority is succeeding David Cameron as Tory leader rather than serving the interests of Londoners. London deserves better than this.”

David Cameron (although on holiday) has weighed in via Twitter with an excruciating football metaphor:

The PM told the Today programme in October 2013 that he would give Boris a “warm welcome” if he wanted to return:

I've had this conversation with Boris and my message to him is: 'You're a brilliant mayor of London, you've done a great job, you've got a lot more to give to public life and it would be great to have you back in the House of Commons at some stage contributing to public life.' That's up to him, but I'll certainly be giving him a warm welcome.”

Asked whether he could stand while still London Mayor, Cameron said: “Absolutely, but that's a matter for him, it's his plan”. He also tried to scotch rumours that Johnson intends to follow him as leader by saying that he and Johnson could “make a very strong team together”.

Update 6 August 11:25:

You can now watch Boris’s announcement:

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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What Charles Windsor’s garden reveals about the future of the British monarchy

As an open-minded republican, two things struck me. 

First we are told that the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has lost his battle for a “soft” Brexit. In a joint article, he and the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, the hardest of the ministerial Brexiteers, seem to agree that the UK will leave the European customs union in 2019. Then we get a reverse ferret. Hammond will go for a softish Brexit, after all. A government paper states that the UK will seek a “temporary customs union” in the “transition period” that, it hopes, will follow Brexit.

All this is a taste of things to come. We shall see many more instances of hard and soft Brexiteers celebrating victory or shrieking about betrayal. We shall also see UK and EU leaders storming out of talks, only to return to negotiations a few days later. My advice is to ignore it all until Friday 29 March 2019, when UK and EU leaders will emerge from all-night talks to announce a final, impenetrable fudge.

Lessons not learned

What you should not ignore is the scandal over Learndirect, the country’s largest adult training and apprenticeships provider. An Ofsted report states that a third of its apprentices receive none of the off-the-job training required. In a random sample, it found no evidence of learning plans.

Labour started Learndirect in 2000 as a charitable trust controlled by the Department for Education. It was sold to the private equity arm of Lloyds Bank in 2011 but remains largely reliant on public money (£158m in 2016-17). Since privatisation, 84 per cent of its cash has gone on management fees, interest payments and shareholder dividends. It spent £504,000 on sponsoring the Marussia Formula One team in an attempt to reach “our core customer group… in a new and exciting way”. The apprentices’ success rate fell from 67.5 per cent before privatisation to 57.8 per cent now.

This episode tells us that, however the Brexit process is going, Britain’s problems remain unchanged. Too many services are in the hands of greedy, incompetent private firms, and we are no closer to developing a skilled workforce. We only know about Learndirect’s failure because the company’s attempt to prevent Ofsted publishing its report was, after ten weeks of legal wrangling, overthrown in the courts.

A lot of hot air

Immediately after the Paris climate change accord in 2015, I expressed doubts about how each country’s emissions could be monitored and targets enforced. Now a BBC Radio 4 investigation finds that climate-warming gases emitted into the atmosphere far exceed those declared under the agreement. For example, declarations of methane emissions from livestock in India are subject to 50 per cent uncertainty, and those in Russia to 30-40 per cent uncertainty. One region in northern Italy, according to Swiss scientists, emits at least six times more climate-warming gases than are officially admitted. Remember this when you next hear politicians proclaiming that, after long and arduous negotiations, they have achieved a great victory.

Come rain or come shine

Climate change, scientists insist, is not the same thing as changes in the weather but writing about it brings me naturally to Britain’s wet August and newspaper articles headlined “Whatever happened to the sunny Augusts of our childhood?” and so on. The Daily Mail had one in which the writer recalled not a “single rainy day” from his family holidays in Folkestone. This, as he explained, is the result of what psychologists call “fading affect bias”, which causes our brains to hold positive memories longer than negative ones.

My brain is apparently atypical. I recall constant frustration as attempts to watch or play cricket were interrupted by rain. I remember sheltering indoors on family holidays with card games and books. My life, it seems, began, along with sunshine, when I left home for university at 18. Do psychologists have a name for my condition?

High and dry

Being an open-minded republican, I bought my wife, a keen gardener, an escorted tour of the gardens at Highgrove, the private residence of the man I call Charles Windsor, for her birthday. We went there this month during a break in the Cotswolds. The gardens are in parts too fussy, rather like its owner, but they are varied, colourful and hugely enjoyable. Two things struck me. First, the gardens of the elite were once designed to showcase the owner’s wealth and status, with the eye drawn to the grandeur of the mansion. Highgrove’s garden is designed for privacy, with many features intended to protect royalty from the prying public and particularly the press photographers’ long lenses. Second, our guide, pointing out what the owner had planted and designed, referred throughout to “His Royal Highness”, never “Charles”. I am pondering what these observations mean for the monarchy and its future.

Sympathy for the devil

Before leaving for the Cotswolds, we went to the Almeida Theatre in north London to see Ink, featuring Rupert Murdoch’s relaunch of the Sun in 1969. Many accounts of Murdoch  portray him as a power-crazed monster and his tabloid hacks as amoral reptiles. Ink is far more nuanced. It shows Murdoch as a mixture of diffidence, charm and menace, in love with newspapers and determined to blow apart a complacent,
paternalistic British establishment.

You may think that he and the Sun had a permanently coarsening effect on public life and culture, and I would largely agree. But he was also, in his own way, a 1960s figure and his Sun, with its demonic energy, was as typical a product of that decade as the Beatles’ songs. The play strengthened my hunch that its author, James Graham, who also wrote This House, set in the parliamentary whips’ offices during the 1970s, will eventually be ranked as the century’s first great playwright.

Peter Wilby was editor of the Independent on Sunday from 1995 to 1996 and of the New Statesman from 1998 to 2005. He writes the weekly First Thoughts column for the NS.

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear