'Boris to stand as MP in 2015': leadership gossip catches fire
Decision expected from London mayor soon: which seat will he get and why would he do it?
A BRUSHFIRE has erupted on Twitter this morning as the result of overnight reports claiming Boris Johnson WILL stand for Parliament in the May 2015 general election, a full year before his term as Mayor of London runs out.
The Daily Mail says Boris will "electrify" the Tories' campaign to get re-elected (hopefully without needing a pact with the Lib Dems this time). The Sun, which says Boris will announce his decision "within weeks", reports that party bosses hope his "nationwide popularity" will help the Tories deal with the Ukip threat.
But it has sparked speculation that Boris is really thinking more about what happens if the Tories lose. In short, is he positioning himself to run for the party leadership against the main rival, George Osborne, if Cameron is defeated next May and is forced to resign?
If Boris waits until he has served out his time as mayor, it could be too late to join the race: Osborne will have it in the bag.
Boris's “allies” say he will announce his decision by the summer. There is nothing in the rulebook to stop him serving as a backbench MP while continuing to be London mayor.
Andrew Neil, presenter of the BBC's Daily Politics, tweeted: "So. Can it be true after all the denials? Is Boris about to announce his plan to stand for Parliament in 2015 election?"
Jason Groves in the Daily Mail reports: "Friends of the London Mayor say he accepts he must make his intentions to return to national politics known well before the Conservative conference in October or risk becoming a distraction at the party’s last major event before the general election next May.
"Allies also fear that his public dithering over the issue is damaging his reputation among the Tory MPs whose support he will need if he eventually launches a leadership bid."
Boris has been under intense pressure to get off the fence and make a decision since March when Cameron said he wanted his fellow Old Etonian back "on the team" at Westminster.
George Osborne would no doubt prefer that Boris does the decent thing and waits until he's finished being mayor before seeking to get back into Westminster politics.
Osborne is still nominally in charge of the Tory general election campaign - despite the appointment of Lynton Crosby to oversee the strategy - and the Chancellor will want to claim all the credit if the Tories gain a second term. The last thing he will want is to share the limelight with the blond bombshell.
As for Crosby, it was he who helped Boris get elected as mayor in the first place. He is well aware of Boris's strengths. But do the Tories really want three ex-Bullingdon Club members (Dave, George and Boris) fronting their election campaign when they are fighting Ed Miliband's claim that they're a party led by out-of-touch toffs?
The other big question is which seat will Boris get to fight? There will be plenty of Tory MPs willing to give up their seats in return for a peerage, but Boris will need a London seat if he's to make any effort to continue with his day job, not one in the "the far north" as Margaret Thatcher used to call it.
One option would be the plum seat of Kensington – half of the seat used by another one-time Tory leadership contender Michael Portillo to gain re-entry to Westminster only for him to quit again. But the present incumbent, former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, shows no sign of wanting to step aside.
Another option could be Richmond, Surrey, the seat held by millionaire ecologist Zac Goldsmith. The narrow 4,091 majority in the formerly Lib Dem stronghold held by Susan Kramer (now a Lib Dem peer) was thought too thin, but with Lib Dem support at rock bottom, and the Lib Dem policy for a mansion tax being unpopular in the wealthy borough, Richmond may look very attractive to Boris.
He held nearby Henley until quitting to run for mayor against Labour’s Ken Livingstone and Richmond Park would give him plenty of scope to ride his bike in safety.