The juxtaposition of Boris Johnson’s success with the Conservatives’ failure means that the Mayor of London’s stock is higher than ever. He is hailed by the right as proof that Tories can win (even in a Labour city like London) when they offer a distinctive, populist brand of conservatism. Boris’s re-election will gift him the largest personal mandate of any European politician, bar the French president.
In their columns today, both Fraser Nelson, the editor of the Spectator, and Tim Montgomerie (£), the editor of ConservativeHome (whom I recently profiled for the NS), write of Boris as a Tory king across the water.
Just three months ago it was almost fanciful to imagine Boris as a future leader. The chance is still small. But he is the one senior Conservative who simultaneously appeals to core Tory voters and to a large proportion of Labour supporters.
The ruthlessness of the Conservative Party should never be underestimated. They got rid of Margaret Thatcher when MPs concluded that she was a loser. Mr Cameron has enormous skills but he must recognise the seriousness of the situation and the need to respond. Either he finds an election game-changer or the party might very reluctantly reach for the blond-coloured nuclear button.
So, could Boris become an MP in 2015 and stay on as mayor until 2016 (when his second term expires)? There is no constitutional obstacle to him doing so. Indeed, there is a precedent. After the 2000 mayoral election, Ken Livingstone remained the MP for Brent East until 2001.
One senior Conservative tells today’s Independent:
He could not wear two hats for a long period but doing it for 12 months would not cause a great controversy. Tory associations in London and the Home Counties would queue up to have him as their candidate. He would say he was representing London in Parliament for a year.
Fraser Nelson names Crispin Blunt and Patrick Mercer as two MPs who would happily make way for Boris.
The Mayor has never publicly ruled out becoming an MP while remaining Mayor of London. When questioned on the subject by Prospect magazine, he “declined to comment but gave a low laugh.” Should he return to parliament in 2015, it is no longer unthinkable that he could assume the reins of power midway through the second term of a Conservative-led government (Cameron has said he doesn’t want to fight more than two elections) or the first term of a Conservative opposition.
Boris is that increasingly rare beast: a Tory who can win elections. As they mourn the loss of hundreds of Conservative councillors and reflect on the party’s disastrous failure to win a majority in 2010, Cameron’s MPs won’t forget that.