FULL NAME: Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson
BORN: June 19, 1964, New York
EDUCATION: Eton, Balliol College Oxford
STATUS: Married, 6 children
FIRST ELECTED: 2001
CONSTITUENCY: Uxbridge – Majority 10,695
EXPERIENCE: Shadow Arts Minister May-November 2004, Shadow Universities Minister December 2005-July 2007, Mayor of London 2008-16
OTHER EXPERIENCE: Journalist, The Times & Daily Telegraph 1987-1999, Editor, The Spectator 1999-2006
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: “Cripes, I didn’t mean it.”
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: “Let me give you a detailed analysis of the difference between microfiscal economic policy and macrofiscal strategy.”
FAMOUS QUOTES: “My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.” “The dreadful truth is that when people come to see their MP they have run out of better ideas.” “My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters.”
STRENGTHS: Huge star quality, charisma, ability to shrug off potential gaffes and scandals, intellect, public speaking
WEAKNESSES: Stormy private life, priapic tendencies, lack of attention to detail, economic expertise, strategic ignorance, not a team player, yet another Old Etonion from Oxford
MAIN ADVISERS: Will Walden
MAIN ALLIES: Jesse Norman, Ben Wallace, Nadhim Zahawi, Nadine Dorries
LIKELY TO STAND: 100%
LADBROKES ODDS: Evens
(scored a panel of 50 Conservative activists, politicians and commentators)
Negotiating Skills: 6.4
Star Quality: 9.1
Ability to take the fight to Labour: 8.6
Economic Competence: 6.4
Intellectual Capacity: 8.2
Ability to Unite the Country: 7.3
Ability to Unite the Party: 5.9
National Appeal: 8.0
International Experience: 6.4
Against all the other potential candidates Boris Johnson top-scored in Star Quality, Likeability, Ability to take the Fight to Labour, Ability to Unite the Country as well as National Appeal. He was joint highest on Intellectual Ability, alongside Michael Gove.
OVERALL RATING OUT OF 100: 73
Boris suffers from being the front runner. The last time a front runner won the leadership of the Conservative Party was when Ted Heath won in 1965. I have particular cause to remember 2005 when David Davis held that position and then crashed and burned. The longer the timetable, the more likely it is that the same could happen to Boris. Even now there is an “Anyone But Boris” campaign.
Boris’s main weakness is his perceived lack of conviction and the way he flipflopped over the whole issue of EU membership. His apparent expediency may be forgiven by the voluntary party but the parliamentary party may be less forgiving. His main challenge will be to win enough support from his parliamentary colleagues to get on the ballot paper which goes out to the 150,000 Conservative Party members. His older colleagues remember his antics from the 2001 Parliament when he was considered the very antithesis of a team player, and frankly a bit of a joke. Because he has only recently returned to Parliament and therefore isn’t very familiar with the 2010 or 2015 intakes. As Mayor of London he by and large ignored MPs and held very few ‘get to know you’ cocktail parties. These have started in recent months but to more than three quarters of the Parliamentary Party, Boris is ‘that celebrity off the TV’ rather than a colleague.
Having said all that, the man has star quality. You just have to walk to down a street with him to experience it. And his appeal does actually stretch north of Watford. If Tory MPs want to elect someone who is a proven election winner they can do no better than elect Boris Johnson. But that’s not the issue now. Many of them believe that they should be electing a tough negotiator who has a wide range of economic expertise and can think radically. Maybe that candidate is not on offer anyhow, but it’s in those areas that Boris Johnson needs to convince his fellow MPs.
Boris could be a great Prime Minister. Or he could be a disaster. There are no shades of grey with Boris. He would be a very great risk, for a Tory Party which needs unity and direction. But it would be a wonderful period for people like me to cover!
Coming next: Theresa May