Boris: readiness to quit EU could bring more Tories onside

Johnson is after PM's job, with a kitchen cabinet and war chest in place, according to Mail commentator

Column LAST UPDATED AT 10:12 ON Thu 7 Aug 2014

George Osborne's nose has been put out of joint by Boris Johnson elbowing his way back into the Westminster circus.

As Chancellor, Osborne has been gaining gravitas like a rolling stone gathers moss. He would be the natural choice to replace David Cameron - eclipsing the appeal of Home Secretary Theresa May - if he can deliver a general election victory in 2015 for the Tories based on economic growth and if, as most suspect, Cameron then steps down as PM rather than seeking a third term.

All seemed set fair for an Osborne assumption of power when that day comes, until Boris finally confirmed yesterday that he will be seeking a seat in Parliament for the next general election - probably Uxbridge and South Ruislip - despite having a year to go as Mayor of London.

Johnson said: “I have not got any particular seat lined up, but I think that in all probability I will try to find somewhere to stand in 2015.”

It sparked speculation in the Daily Telegraph that Boris could become Business Secretary once his term as Mayor ends in May 2016, building on the contacts with the City he’s made in his current job. But as Boris might say: Phooey. There's only one job he's really interested in and that’s Cameron's.

Johnson once dismissed speculation about his running for the leadership as about as likely as “being reincarnated as an olive”. Yesterday, he said: “When David Cameron finally steps down, in 2030, or whenever, it may be that there’s a vacancy, but it will probably be filled by a person who’s a teenager now.”

Boris is being disingenuous. Indeed, if you believe Andrew Pierce, a Daily Mail political commentator, Team Boris is already up and running, with a ‘kitchen cabinet’ in place and the beginnings of a campaign war chest, thanks to two big financial backers - David Ross, the multi-millionaire joint founder of Carphone Warehouse, and Lord Marland, a founding director of insurers Jardine Lloyd Thompson and one of the richest men in Westminster.

Pierce argues that a whole slew of Tory backbenchers who have felt overlooked by Cameron and Osborne are ready to back Boris – though the Radio 4’s Today programme found only one Tory MP, ‘Mad Nad’ Nadine Dorries, ready to give the London Mayor her full backing as yet.

She said: “George Osborne has done an excellent job in making sure he's got all the right people, all the right MPs in all the right positions, but that doesn't mean it will necessarily work for him in the end because all those who have been loyal to George will have to make a very difficult choice - do they want a winner to lead the Conservative Party? And if they do, they only have one choice: Boris Johnson.”

Dorries, a former nurse from Liverpool, once damagingly attacked Cameron and Osborne as "two posh boys" – but it seems Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (Eton and Oxford) has prepared a ready answer for those who question whether voters will want another former Bullingdon Club member as PM.

He tried it out last night on Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News. Why, he asked, should being a fellow Old Etonian - with Cameron - be of any more concern to voters than his being a fellow Old Primrosian - with Ed Miliband. (As Boris first let on in a Daily Telegraph column two years ago, he and Ed both attended “the superb” Primrose Hill Primary School in Camden, north London.)

Far more potent, Boris used a speech yesterday at Bloomberg to deliver a mayoral report on what would happen to the economy of London if Britain left the EU.

Both the report’s author, Gerard Lyons, and Boris are now saying that unless there are serious reforms in Brussels, London could be better off out of Europe, as long as Britain can leave the EU on good terms.

“I think, after a period of anxiety, things would rapidly calm down and people would see the long-term advantages [of Britain's exit] for London,” said Boris.

That is music to the ears of disgruntled Tory voters thinking of voting Ukip at the next election... and a potential death knell for Osborne. · 

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