Boris's ego swells as Tory leadership speculation mounts

Oct 8, 2012

London mayor champions the ‘squeezed middle' as senior commentator fantasises over a Boris Cabinet

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BORIS JOHNSON appears to be revelling in the growing speculation that he will one day lead the Conservative party. "My wife says all this is very bad for my ego - which is already in a bad enough shape - in the sense that it puffs it up," he said in a Radio 5 interview yesterday. 

This morning, his ego gets a further boost. The Daily Telegraph says Johnson's latest column for the paper - in which he champions the "squeezed" middle-earners who are struggling to get on the property ladder in London - raises questions about the performance of the coalition. 

Meanwhile, The Times publishes a piece of speculative fiction by Tim Montgomerie, editor of ConservativeHome, which imagines a fantasy Tory Cabinet in the year 2020 – with Boris as Prime Minister.

In the article, which assumes a David Cameron defeat in 2015, Montgomerie says of the London mayor: "He's the Heineken Tory, reaching parts of the electorate that no other Conservative can. He can even win re-election in the middle of a Tory-led cuts programme."

Boris will speak to the Conservative party conference tomorrow morning after attending a fringe event tonight entitled: ‘Boris Johnson's 2012: Re-elected and Olympotastic'.

He arrives in Birmingham as the most popular senior Tory; a survey by pollsters Opinium published in yesterday's Observer shows that voters prefer Boris to Cameron by a massive margin: +30 for the mayor compared to -21 for the PM.

Cameron's allies fear that the London mayor will upstage their man. An unnamed Cabinet minister loyal to the current PM tells the Telegraph: "It'll be the usual sideshow from Boris. He just can't help himself."

In his Telegraph column, Johnson says many middle-earners in London are unable to buy homes because of competition from rich foreigners and City workers.

He writes: "We are not doing as the Victorians did, and providing new stock to be bought by the people in the middle - on household incomes from £30,000 to £64,000; and they are feeling utterly and understandably ignored.

"They cannot get the mortgages they would need, not at current prices, and not with lenders in their current mood. They have to live at a great distance from their place of work, and spend huge quantities on travel and hardly get to see their children in the evenings.

"They are obliged to rent at ever higher prices. In the past 10 years, the number of rented households in London has doubled, and rents went up 12 per cent last year alone."

Johnson is ostensibly writing in his capacity as London mayor. But the Telegraph says his column will "raise questions about the coalition's performance so far in making life better for such a key electoral group".

Not everyone is climbing aboard the Boris bandwagon. Echoing recent comments by the Mole, the BBC's deputy political correspondent James Landale blogs: "Is it just possible, to paraphrase Monty Python, that Boris Johnson is not a blond messiah; he is just a very naughty boy?"

Landale argues that nobody believes Cameron will be ousted from the Tory leadership this side of an election. He also questions Boris's popularity outside London and the southeast and remarks on the absence of any Boris power base in Parliament.

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