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:
Great news that Boris plans to stand at next year’s general election – I’ve always said I want my star players on the pitch.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) August 6, 2014
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: