Today’s announcement that Boris Johnson will not be putting himself forward as a candidate in the Conservative leadership election brought welcome relief in the headlines from Labour’s own trials and tribulations.
Boris Johnson is a populist politician. The type of person people can imagine going to the pub with. A joker, a clown and a charlatan. A frustrating opponent, even if he is at times entertaining because very little sticks. There are very few politicians who could live down getting stuck on a zip-wire. I have seen him clearly oblivious to what event it is he is welcoming people to and his ‘Just a Minute’-like approach to avoiding answering questions by waffling about obscure classical references is infuriating.
Like my assembly colleagues at City Hall, I have spent years pointing out his foibles, vanity and lack of attention to detail. His legacy of failure in running London demonstrates he would have been a fairly disastrous prime minister in office. His longer term legacy will be that his ruthless will to put his personal goals first comes at the expense of those interests he is supposed to protect. His wit and popularity may, however, have helped the Conservatives in the ballot box at the possible autumn general election.
Among the things Boris Johnson has failed to pay attention to is being sufficiently loyal to get loyalty in return. Abandoning Cameron to promote himself through the Leave campaign and now abandoned by Gove. Political friends can easily turn in to rivals. Those who do not choose carefully can be burnt. The fate of politicians is sometimes spectacularly Shakespearian, and with Sarah Vine being portrayed as the Lady Macbeth of the Conservative party, never more so than now.
The leaked email from Sarah Vine and Michael Gove’s subsequent decision to stand for Conservative leader himself brought the former mayor’s 15 year career plan to a sudden halt. Following the shock, some people have already suggested to me that his withdrawal from the race is a strategic move. Nonsense, he has just learnt that it is not enough for the public to like you but that you need to carry your colleagues with you to get on in politics.
Do not look for a cunning hidden plan for the future even if his autobiography in a decade or so suggests there is one retrospectively. Media reports this week suggested that Tory strategist Lynton Crosby (who has a track record of only backing winners) was on board with his campaign. The Boris show was up and running and rolling in to town.
The wheels have come off the wagon. He looks diminished and it is hard to see where he goes next. However, like his hero Churchill, who he clearly likes to compare himself to and who suffered a number of great defeats, it is unlikely to be in to obscurity.
Fiona Twycross is a member of the London assembly and chair of the London Fire Authority. She tweets @fionatwycross
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