Boris Johnson: Britain’s most popular politician
Finally, all the speculation, the guessing and rumours can stop. Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has announced that he is going to “in all probability… try to find somewhere to stand in 2015.”
Boris’ admission to something that many believed would happen, has sent Westminster into a summer frenzy. The news that Britain’s most popular politician (see chart below) is entering the 2015 General Election adds extra piquancy to an already exciting race. Expect to see Boris not only working the stump in whichever constituency he is selected in, but also to be paraded through the key marginal seats as well.
Boris is undoubtedly a star attraction in British politics and the Conservative Party will be pleased to have him onside in 2015. A Tory that can win in London is a rare thing and what makes Boris so attractive within the Party. But how will they use him? Someone with his appeal is almost wasted in a safe seat, why not enhance their chances in a marginal seat. Or, imagine this: Boris vs Farage in a coastal constituency? Given the threat UKIP pose to the Conservatives, this could be one way to nullify UKIP’s best chance of winning a seat in the House of Commons. However, he will need to be careful. He still has a duty to Londoners who elected him Mayor, if he is seen to be neglecting that role his popularity may incur a few bruises.
Wherever he chooses to stand, what will be interesting is to watch how Boris begins to shape himself. He may continue to offer protestations, but this will undoubtedly be seen as move towards a run at the leadership in 2015 should the Conservatives fall back into opposition. Boris is popular across his Party largely because he is seen as somewhat of a blank canvas. Those on the right of the Party think he is one them, while the modernisers believe him to empathise with their views. It is striking that Boris made his announcement at what was, ostensibly, a policy speech. He is already trying to position himself, on this occasion to the right with a pro-withdrawal from the EU argument.
The one thing we can guarantee is that Boris’ moves will be closely followed by the media and pundits alike. By ending the speculation over whether or not he will run, punditry will now focus on where he will run. We will most likely see Boris walk into a safe seat, but wouldn’t it be more exciting to see him working hard for votes on the doorstep in a marginal seat somewhere, sweating on election night as to whether he’s been elected?
His popularity will get him so far, but stepping back into Westminster, with potential moves towards a leadership will need careful treading.