Boris Johnson denied he'd run for parliament in 2015 at least 17 times. Photo: Getty
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Boris Johnson denied at least 17 times that he would return to parliament in 2015

The Mayor of London, who has announced he'll be running to be an MP, has consistently denied his wish to return to parliament in 2015.

Boris Johnson upon apparently discovering his predecessor at City Hall Ken Livingstone served both as an MP and Mayor of London simultaneously for over a year was markedly intrigued: 

"Was he really? How long did he do it for?... Really?... Did he?" he spluttered to the Total Politics journalist who was interviewing him, in April this year.

Whether or not this was just bluster, it’s clear Johnson has been tracking his route back to parliament for some time. Of course, he has served as Mayor of London at the same time as being an MP already. Very briefly, at the beginning of his mayoralty in 2008, he continued to be MP for Henley for a few weeks after taking his place at City Hall. So he’s always known it’s possible, and now he’s finally made it public that he will serve out his second term as London mayor (until the 2016 mayoral election), and also run for parliament in the 2015 general election.

However, he’s both skirted around the issue and outright denied his desire to return to parliament in 2015 for some time. Now he’s broken his word, it’s worth looking back at all the times he’s insisted he wouldn’t be running, or dodged the question, with a little help from BuzzFeed’s “11 Times Boris Johnson Denied He Will Stand For Parliament In 2015”.

2011

Do you miss the House of Commons?

I haven’t really missed it that much I have to admit. I love doing what I do.

I was a little surprised when you stood down from Parliament. I thought it would be great to have the Mayor of London in the House of Commons because it gives you a national platform. But I suppose if you have a constituency outside London it’s a bit difficult.

It’s so difficult. South Oxfordshire is a different kettle of fish. It wouldn’t have worked in the long run.

Can you see yourself back in there at some point?

I think Guto [Harri – Boris's head of press] will be there before I’m there.

February, in conversation with Iain Dale in Total Politics magazine

 

***

He says it would be "inconceivable" for him to be both an MP and Mayor if he wins the 2012 election:

“Complete nonsense... The job of Mayor of London is the most wonderful, most engrossing job I could ever imagine I would have in politics and loads of people realise how lucky I am to be here. And I hugely enjoy it, we've got an amazing team in City Hall.

“It gluts the appetite for power and executive action, and I love it. And I really don't want to do anything else. What I want is to get re-elected.

“I've said that I won't go beyond a second term. I'll be well-struck in years. I can certainly promise Londoners that I will fight my absolute utmost to secure a second term. I will do everything I can to persuade them to re-elect us and then I will do the best I can for the next four years.”

September, ITV interview during Conservative Party Conference, from The Telegraph

 

***

“Look, what I have said is that I won’t go on [as mayor] after eight years,” Johnson said when pressed. “I think you can go on too long.” What about cutting short the eight years? “No.” So he will serve a full second term? “You betcha!” Suddenly, he sounds more like the Wodehousian figure many adore. Asked whether he could serve as both an MP and mayor, he declined to comment but gave a low laugh.

September, interview with Prospect magazine

 

2012

BORIS Johnson last night ruled out ever trying to steal David Cameron’s PM crown.

He also declared he will NOT run to be an MP again in the 2015 General Election.

January, The Sun

 

***

There has been speculation that Mr Johnson could be a future Conservative Party leader, but he told the BBC he was dedicating himself to London and people could "take it for granted" that he would not stand as an MP at the 2015 general election.

May, the BBC, upon his re-election as London Mayor

 

***

I’m absolutely not going to be returning to Parliament, I’ve got to do a job here in London and that’s what I want to do and it’s a massive, engrossing job.

September, The Evening Standard

 

***

Mr Johnson stated explicitly that he would not return to Parliament before his mayoral term is up.

October, at Tory party conference, the Mail

 

2013

Boris Johnson has said he does not want to be parachuted in to another MP's seat in order to return to the House of Commons, a Derbyshire Tory party member has claimed.

March, The Derby Telegraph

 

***

Having been accused of ‘dithering’ by backbenchers, it seems Boris has no plans to commit to re-entering Parliament – or remaining as Mayor until 2016. In a recent interview on Pienaar’s Politics on Radio 5 Live, John Pienaar asked the Mayor whether he intended to “keep fudging” the issue about returning to the House of Commons. “Yes,” came the reply.

March, BorisWatch

 

***

Boris Johnson will not stand for parliament at the next election, The Spectator understands. The Mayor of London has told the Cameron circle that he will not seek to return to the Commons in a pre-2015 by-election, nor will he stand at the general election.

July, The Spectator

 

***

Getting down to the nitty gritty of the interview, I ask what it's like being mayor of London. "It's the best job in British politics by miles and I feel increasingly morose that I've forsworn the idea of standing again," he responds emphatically. "As the date draws nearer, like all people who love their job, I'm starting to think 'oh no', but it probably is the right thing to do to give another three years of real effort and then pack it in."

He won't be drawn on what he plans to do next, except, he says, firmly on message, to put the full weight of his support behind Cameron.

August, The Australian

 

***

He has told friends that he has no desire to spend the three years after 2015 serving under Cameron.

August, The Spectator

 

***

Boris Johnson has batted away suggestions he will become an MP again – by claiming he would rather write ‘airport bonk busters’ instead.

October, Metro

 

***

Asked if he will be an MP in 2015, Mr Johnson replied: "No, because I have got a huge amount of work to do and I have got to get on and deliver a colossal amount of stuff in London. What happens after two and a half years of being Mayor, who knows?”

December, York Press

 

2014

Boris Johnson has ruled out standing for Parliament in the run-up to next year’s general election and denied that George Osborne has attempted to convince him to return to Westminster...

The Mayor of London said he was “sick” of discussing his future plans after reports that was left furious following claims that the Chancellor had made a “personal approach” urging him to stand as an MP.

January, the Telegraph

 

***

In a 2011 questions session, Johnson was asked by Assembly member John Biggs if he would “undertake to not seek alternative elected office whilst Mayor of London.” BoJo’s one word response? “Yes.”

April, the Evening Standard

 

***

London Mayor Boris Johnson has denied reports this morning he is going to announce he will stand as an MP at next year's general election.

April, LBC

 

***

He won’t even give a give a clear answer on whether or not he will seek a seat at the 2015 general election. “I refer the Honourable Member to the answer I gave a moment ago,” he says. “People want to hear a lot less about, you know, my career and anybody else’s career, and they want to hear a lot more about number one, how are we going to stop Miliband, who I think would be disaster for this country, and number two, get on with a serious programme for Conservative reform of Britain. The more we navel gaze… let’s look forward.”

April, Total Politics magazine
 

After all these denials, it’s worth looking out for when Boris will break his solemn promise that he is not looking to become Tory leader or prime minister: “As I never tire of saying, my chances of becoming prime minister are only slightly better than being decapitated by a frisbee, blinded by a champagne cork, locked in a fridge or being reincarnated as an olive.”

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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Is the Great Fire of London a blueprint for how governments deal with disasters?

Visible leadership, an established authority, and a common external enemy: an enduring defence mechanism 350 years on.

In 1968, the science journal The Lancet ran a report into human behaviour. When populations are confronted with disaster, it recommended, effective “communications, coordination, and control, and the establishment of a recognised authority” are of utmost importance (advice that should have been heeded immediately after the Brexit result in June this year).

The 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London this week seems is a good time to think about how we deal with disasters: over 13,000 homes were destroyed, 87 churches ruined and thousands of Londoners displaced.

For me, one of the most striking parts of the story of the Great Fire is not the fire itself nor the dramatic rebuilding programme that followed, but the state of flux in between.

When the fire broke out, England was at war with both the Dutch Republic and France. As soon as news reached France, the Venetian ambassador Alvise Sagredo, declared that the fire would be “worse than the plague and any other disaster, capable of making [the English] change their government and their principles”.

In England, even the London Gazette warned that England’s foes would try “to persuade the world abroad of great parties and disaffection at home against his majesties government”. Faced with unparalleled destruction and unprecedented disarray, how did the king, his advisers and civic authorities regain control of London?

With the Guildhall severely damaged and the Royal Exchange destroyed, the first step was to find a new base for civic and mercantile power. On 6 September, Charles II instructed the Lord Mayor and the city aldermen to resume governance of the city. Gresham College and buildings around Bishopsgate were taken over and efforts were immediately taken to re-establish trade. Vendors were granted permission to set up sheds in temporary markets at Bishopsgate Street, Tower Hill, Smithfield and Leadenhall Street.

“Honest and able persons” were selected to monitor the ruined city to ensure fire did not break out afresh, appeals were made across the country for charitable donations and neighbouring counties were called upon to provide sustenance. From the navy stores, ship’s biscuit was offered to the needy and canvas was provided so that the tens of thousands of homeless people stranded in the fields surrounding London could fashion tents.

The measures were not perfect. Visiting Moorfields, the diarist John Evelyn described, “the poor inhabitants . . . some under tents, some under miserable huts and hovels, many without a rag”.

Those stranded found food to be in short supply and many succumbed to the illnesses bred by a reduced condition in life, including aged playwright James Shirley, who died in October 1666.

But it wasn’t long before people started to disperse – either leaving London altogether, finding accommodation elsewhere, or returning to the locations of their former homes and shops to erect makeshift shacks above the ruins.

In the background, the trial and execution of French watchmaker Robert Hubert, who falsely claimed to have started the fire, provided a focus for any anger and rage.

With communication ruptured following the destruction of the London Gazette printing house and the General Letter Office, rumours of plots, arson and invasions had spread almost as quickly as the fire itself. Indeed, terrible violence had broken out during the fire, with mobs targeting any “strangers” or foreign-born Londoners. One French servant, for example, reported how gangs of “English women did knock down strangers for not speaking good English. Some of them armed with spits, some with bread staffs, and the captain with a broad sword.”

When the London Gazette was released the week after the fire – after only skipping one edition of its biweekly run – it provided readers with a detailed description of the catastrophe, emphasising its accidental nature and promoting the role played by Charles II and his brother and heir, James, Duke of York, in preventing the fire spreading even further.

Against protocol, the newspaper also allowed important tradespeople to advertise their new offices: the goldsmith-bankers, for example, informed readers that they had found premises along Broad Street.

By mid-September, the etcher Wenceslaus Hollar had already begun his survey of the city and plans had been submitted to the king from John Evelyn and architects Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke, to name just a few, as to how to rebuild the capital.

Writing at the time, Sir Nathaniel Hobart, believed that the “rebuilding of the Citty will not be soe difficult as the satisfying all interests, there being many proprietors”. As such, one of the most important innovations following the disaster was the establishment of a judiciary, known as the Fire Court, to untangle the complex web of formal and informal agreements between tenants and landlords. From 1667 until 1672 the Fire Court settled hundreds and hundreds of cases.

There were certainly many bumps along the way – for a while, the City of London was plundered and inhabited by gangs. Plus, anger towards foreign-born Londoners continued; owing to his Dutch background, one Johan Vandermarsh had to fight tooth and nail to keep hold of his property on Lime Street, despite helping to save many of his neighbours’ homes.

All of this considered, there was nothing like the widespread disorder that Charles II had feared and his enemies expected. On the contrary, the visibility of the king and his brother and heir – and the convenient suspicion that the fire had been started by an external enemy – worked to bind the people to their king and settle unrest. Although hard to believe at the time, there was also the promise of “a more beautiful city”.

Rebecca Rideal is a historian, factual television producer and author of 1666: Plague, War and Hellfire.

She will be speaking at London’s Burning festival on Friday 2 September – a contemporary festival of art and ideas produced at Artichoke to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London. Free to the public, it runs from 30 August-4 September.