Boris Johnson should be PM, say major Tory donors

Going for gold: London mayor's star rises - even when he's left hanging from an Olympic wire

BY David Cairns LAST UPDATED AT 15:29 ON Sun 5 Aug 2012

HE MAY have spent part of last week dangling from a stuck zip wire - but the experience doesn't seem to have done Boris Johnson's profile any harm. The Sunday Times reports today that a number of key Tory donors like the idea of Johnson as PM.

The newspaper says Peter Hall, a financier who has given the party more than £450,000, thinks Johnson could be the right man to lead the UK if the economy sinks even further into recession while hedge-fund manger Lord Fink, who has given £2.6m, declared himself a "Boris fan".

Restaurant entrepreneur Hugh Osmond, meanwhile, gave the party £94,000 between March 2008 and October 2009 but is "so frustrated by the Government's failure to boost economic growth he is no longer prepared to give".

Now he tells the paper he would be prepared to back Johnson in the future. That would be welcome news to a party whose donations last year were at their lowest level since 2003.

This does seem to be Johnson's moment: last week, a poll on the Conservative Home website suggested he was favourite among the Tory grassroots to be the next leader, particularly after making political capital out of Mitt Romney's disparaging remarks about the Olympics.

But not everyone is so convinced. The Observer mobilises Johnson's biographer, Sonia Purnell, to pour some cold water. "Does a flair for the comic turn count as a qualification for national leadership in a crisis?" she asks.

Purnell claims Johnson's affable public persona is artfully constructed, with every bumbling gaffe carefully planned. She says he has few close friends and drops his political allies as soon as he finds it expedient.

Worst of all, perhaps, Purnell says Johnson was not an impressive MP: "He made little impact, not least in the chamber where he was dismissed as a lightweight," she writes.

"He was notorious for avoiding the typical legwork normally expected of a backbench MP and was on occasion, when it suited him, destructively disloyal to his party."

It is from the Mail on Sunday that perhaps the most dangerous backlash comes. A pro-Cameron "source" tells the paper that Johnson's sketchy private life and reputation as a "ladies' man" will "come back to haunt him and cause a huge public backlash if he ever stands for the leadership of the Conservative Party".

But there is also hope for Johnson at the Mail. Renegade Tory MP Nadine Dorries eulogises her former honourable friend as a "witty winner" who is the Conservatives' "only hope".

"Some people are just too clever to be judged by normal rules and Boris is one," she adds. "Making him conform is like caging a lion – that’s why so many politicians are jealous of him. He was too good just to be a backbench MP." · 

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