Boris Johnson has announced he will stand as an MP in May 2015.
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Where will Boris stand as an MP?

Boris appears to have at least five good options.

Boris Johnson is returning to the Commons in 2015.

I haven’t got any particular seat lined up but I do think that in all probability… I will try to find somewhere to stand in 2015.”

So where might he stand? Many lists have been made and unmade in the past five years as Boris dithered – and the bookies are now frantically re-drawing their odds.

Just in the past month three seats have been sown up. We now know Boris won’t be standing in North West Hampshire, Hornchurch and Westminster, and Louth and Horncastle.

His deputy mayor Kit Malthouse was chosen to replace the retiring Sir George Young in the first, Dame Angela Watkinson was recently re-selected in the second, and an open primary just decided the candidate in the third.

But there are five seats that look like strong possibilities:

Uxbridge and South Ruislip

Tory majority: 24.9 per cent
How “safe”: 110th safest 
Distance from City Hall: 20.2 miles (59 minute drive)

While a few seats escaped in July, the peripheral London seat of Uxbridge became Boris’s best option last month when its MP, John Randall, announced he was stepping down.

Randall won the redrawn seat by 24.9 per cent in 2010, and the party has held Uxbridge since 1970, which the pollster Anthony Wells has described as "middle-of-the-road suburbia, hidden away at the end at the far end of the Metropolitan line".

The seat could allow him to serve out his second term as London Mayor, as he committed to doing when he won in 2012. This wouldn’t be without precedent – Ken Livingstone spent 13 months as MP for Brent East after becoming London mayor in May 2000.

The constituency association is reportedly looking to select a candidate by mid-September, which would fit with the Tory leadership’s hope that Boris doesn’t distract the party conference later that month.

Hertsmere

Tory majority: 37.3 per cent
How “safe”: 13th safest
Distance from City Hall: 16.4 miles (62 minute drive)

Uxbridge is a safe seat, but Hertsmere is one of the safest Tory seats in the country. Only 12 other seats returned larger majorities in 2010.

The seat also became available last month, when James Clappison stepped down – apparently at the behest of his local association. If they were looking for a more high-profile MP, after 23 years of Clappison’s quiet localism, Boris could be their man.

The long-serving Thatcherite minister Cecil Parkinson held the seat throughout the 1980s. Selecting Boris would bring the area national stature once again.

Kensington

Tory majority: 37.3 per cent
How “safe”: 13th safest
Distance from City Hall: 6.8 miles (43 minute drive)

There is no firm indication that Kensington’s MP, Sir Malcom Rifkind, is willing to stand down, but Kensington would certainly be the ideal seat for Johnson.

Kensington – as safe a seat as Uxbridge – takes in Boris’ cultural hinterland of High Street Kensington, Knightsbridge and Notting Hill, and would be a short trip away from City Hall.

Richmond Park

Tory majority: 6.9 per cent
How “safe”: 250th safest
Distance from City Hall: 10.5 miles (57 minute drive)

Zac Goldsmith only won the leafy London seat in 2010, but rumours have often circulated that he would be willing to step aside for Boris.

The seat look less safe than others, but the Liberal Democrats are unlikely to pose anything like the threat they did in 2010, when Goldsmith still won the seat by nearly 7 per cent.

Johnson may find the seat sleepy in comparison to the bustle of Kensington, but he would still be relatively close to City Hall and Westminster.

South Cambridgeshire

Tory majority: 13.3 per cent
How “safe”: 193rd safest
Distance from City Hall: 67.7 miles (141 minute drive)

Andrew Lansley currently occupies the seat, but he is stepping down at the next election in pursuit of an “international” role.

David Cameron passed him over for EU Commissioner, but Lansley was his boss in the early 1990s, when the Prime Minister was a young staffer in the Conservative Research Department. 

Either way, his Cambridgeshire seat appears open to Boris, although it would leave him well out of London and make his bid to continue as Mayor until 2016 all the more impractical.

 

Seat data provided by May 2015 — launching this September. Distance and driving times according to Google Maps.

 

Harry Lambert was the editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

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Boris Johnson is right about Saudi Arabia - but will he stick to his tune in Riyadh?

The Foreign Secretary went off script, but on truth. 

The difference a day makes. On Wednesday Theresa May was happily rubbing shoulders with Saudi Royalty at the Gulf Co-operation Council summit and talking about how important she thinks the relationship is.

Then on Thursday, the Guardian rained on her parade by publishing a transcript of her Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, describing the regime as a "puppeteer" for "proxy wars" while speaking at an international conference last week.

We will likely never know how she reacted when she first heard the news, but she’s unlikely to have been happy. It was definitely off-script for a UK foreign secretary. Until Johnson’s accidental outburst, the UK-Saudi relationship had been one characterised by mutual backslapping, glamorous photo-ops, major arms contracts and an unlimited well of political support.

Needless to say, the Prime Minister put him in his place as soon as possible. Within a few hours it was made clear that his words “are not the government’s views on Saudi and its role in the region". In an unequivocal statement, Downing Street stressed that Saudi is “a vital partner for the UK” and reaffirmed its support for the Saudi-led air strikes taking place in Yemen.

For over 18 months now, UK fighter jets and UK bombs have been central to the Saudi-led destruction of the poorest country in the region. Schools, hospitals and homes have been destroyed in a bombing campaign that has created a humanitarian catastrophe.

Despite the mounting death toll, the arms exports have continued unabated. Whitehall has licensed over £3.3bn worth of weapons since the intervention began last March. As I write this, the UK government is actively working with BAE Systems to secure the sale of a new generation of the same fighter jets that are being used in the bombing.

There’s nothing new about UK leaders getting close to Saudi Arabia. For decades now, governments of all political colours have worked hand-in-glove with the arms companies and Saudi authorities. Our leaders have continued to bend over backwards to support them, while turning a blind eye to the terrible human rights abuses being carried out every single day.

Over recent years we have seen Tony Blair intervening to stop an investigation into arms exports to Saudi and David Cameron flying out to Riyadh to meet with royalty. Last year saw the shocking but ultimately unsurprising revelation that UK civil servants had lobbied for Saudi Arabia to sit on the UN Human Rights Council, a move which would seem comically ironic if the consequences weren’t so serious.

The impact of the relationship hasn’t just been to boost and legitimise the Saudi dictatorship - it has also debased UK policy in the region. The end result is a hypocritical situation in which the government is rightly calling on Russian forces to stop bombing civilian areas in Aleppo, while at the same time arming and supporting Saudi Arabia while it unleashes devastation on Yemen.

It would be nice to think that Johnson’s unwitting intervention could be the start of a new stage in UK-Saudi relations; one in which the UK stops supporting dictatorships and calls them out on their appalling human rights records. Unfortunately it’s highly unlikely. Last Sunday, mere days after his now notorious speech, Johnson appeared on the Andrew Marr show and, as usual, stressed his support for his Saudi allies.

The question for Johnson is which of these seemingly diametrically opposed views does he really hold? Does he believe Saudi Arabia is a puppeteer that fights proxy wars and distorts Islam, or does he see it as one of the UK’s closest allies?

By coincidence Johnson is due to visit Riyadh this weekend. Will he be the first Foreign Secretary in decades to hold the Saudi regime accountable for its abuses, or will he cozy up to his hosts and say it was all one big misunderstanding?

If he is serious about peace and about the UK holding a positive influence on the world stage then he must stand by his words and use his power to stop the arms sales and hold the UK’s "puppeteer" ally to the same standard as other aggressors. Unfortunately, if history is anything to go by, then we shouldn’t hold our breath.

Andrew Smith is a spokesman for Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). You can follow CAAT at @CAATuk.