Coffee House

Tory wars: Cameron invites Boris to have a go, if he thinks he’s hard enough

21 March 2014

I’m not sure how many winnable Tory seats still need a candidate, but the Prime Minister has invited the Mayor of London to get in the ring. Here’s what he said in an interview with James Corden, who was guest editing The Sun for Sport Relief:

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 07.54.15Corden: If you are in a room together, like even if you are at the Olympic stadium and he [Boris] is sat the other side of the stadium…

Cameron: …he still makes me laugh…

Corden: …and you are sat the other side can you feel his eyes piercing at you going… Ghaaaaaaar – I want your job!?!

Cameron: That is brilliant. No. It wouldn’t be a great job to have if people didn’t want it. There is nothing ignoble about wanting my job. But I thought he did brilliantly over the Olympics. He helped create that sense that this was a great time for Britain.

Corden: That is what I mean. Is that not annoying.

Cameron: No.

Corden: Really?

Cameron: Definitely honestly no. I promise you, honestly no.

Corden: So am I right in thinking he has to run in the next election?

Cameron: That is what I think he should do. I want to get him back in Parliament, I think he is a great. It a bit like football as we said earlier, if you have got a great striker you want him on the pitch. It is up to him. He can complete as Mayor, or he can stay on as Mayor and come back to the House. I want him on the team.

Interestingly, Cameron talks as if it’s a given that Boris is out for his job. ‘It wouldn’t be a great job to have if people didn’t want it. There is nothing ignoble about wanting my job,’ he said. Quite so.

But that’s not the same thing as having him on the team. There’s no reason why Boris could not be made Tory chairman, for example, to rally the troops and co-ordinate the campaign. He doesn’t need a seat. But he has yet to say whether he wants one.

In asking Boris to show his hand now, Cameron may argue that he’s reducing the will-he won’t-he speculation that surrounds the Mayor. This matters because, for reasons that only a psychologist could understand, senior Tories are much taken by leadership speculation at the moment – which is depressing, as it suggests even they think they’re about to lose.


The conspiracy theories (and there are a great many around) argue that if Cameron wins in 2015 then Osborne, his co-pilot, is a shoo-in for the job should the PM stand down in 2018. The most likely scenario which has Boris as leader involves Cameron losing next year’s election. So (the theorists continue) it suits Boris to stand back from a coalition car crash, then emerge as the untainted champion of true Conservatism while his main rival, Osborne, would be see as co-architect of failure.

By having Boris stand in 2015, and play a major role in the election campaign, Boris could not then distance himself from it. So the best way of reducing Boris’s chances of leader later is to rope him in now.  And if Boris does stand in 2015, it will not be seen as a hostile act but taking up his party leader’s invitation.

Or so the theory runs – it’s nonsense, in my view. Cameron played a key role in the 2005 campaign, only to emerge as a fresh face in the leadership race.

My take: Cameron, unlike those around him, is not thinking that far ahead. He just wants back in No.10. He knows Boris is a huge asset, who was elected Tory Mayor of a Labour city. He reaches part of the electorate that other candidates can’t. The more we see of him in the 2015 campaign, the better for the Tories. I imagine that Lynton Crosby, who was Boris’s strategist and now advises Cameron, agrees.

Boris may find it rather difficult to find a vacant seat now, as he’s not even on the candidates list, but one could probably be made vacant for him. Zac Goldsmith has hinted that he may hand over the not-entirely-safe seat of Richmond. So yes, there are plenty technical problems. But as Cameron knows, with Boris, anything is possible.

UPDATE: Here’s Boris’s response, in which he reserves his 2015 options:-

‘Having seen Miliband and Balls’ woeful response to Wednesday’s excellent budget it’s clearer than ever that a Labour government in 2015 will be an utter disaster for this country. Between now and May next year only two things matter to me – delivering for London and returning David Cameron to Number 10 as Prime Minister of a majority conservative government. I’ve got a huge job to do in London but I’ll be doing all I can to make that happen.’

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  • BaraccoBarner

    Borisjo Onson is a good mare so should fokus on gunnerving landuan.

  • HookesLaw

    This is just a typical hysterical piece of journalism.
    Cameron was asked a question and by all accounts gave a fair mined and genuine answer.
    He would have made no comment but for being asked the question and given the nature of the question then journalistic hysteria would have erupted no matter what the answer.

  • Brian Quinn

    Boris is a no-no. I would not vote for him.

  • wycombewanderer

    He should stand in Ball’s seat

  • ButcombeMan

    “for reasons that only a psychologist could understand, senior Tories are much taken by leadership speculation at the moment”

    Really Fraser?,

    You are saying that as an influential political commentator you do not understand how Cameron has alienated much of what ought to be and historically have been, core supporters of the Conservative Party.

    Cameron has damaged the Tories, almost beyond repair. It is about time commentators like you started telling it as it is. The party needs critical friends not sycophants.

    Apart from opening up unnecessary divisions around re-defining marriage (not in his manifesto), he has been duplicitous about Europe to the point that he is just not believed, by anyone (agree with him or not).

    Above all he completely fails to touch the huge mass of ordinary “working families” (Mondeo man), especially in the north, who are so essential to holding the centre ground and winning a majority..

    Bluntly, a Cameron led Tory party cannot ever win an election.

    If it could not win against arguably the most incompetent Chancellor & PM since WW2, it cannot win now. Red Ed’s vacuity not withstanding.

  • swatnan

    Have a go BoZo.

  • Fergus McKenzie

    How predictable that the Tory’s only choice for leader is Toff A, B or C

    Meanwhile Oiky Gove knows his place and scurries around doing his master’s bidding

    • Kitty MLB

      Please tell, darling man, do you believe the country was better off
      when ‘ the plebs’ were in charge. At least the Toffs know how to manage
      a country and other peoples money. Instead of the other bunch of wastrels
      who left us without a bean and in a leaky boat, without any paddles in shark infested waters.
      Also no more attacks on the charming and capable Mr Gove who most certainly in not Oiky. That word is more suited to slippery Salmond.

      • Wessex Man

        If someone like Gove were made leader of the Tory party they would pose a serious risk to my party Ukip, so I’m happy for it to be handbags at 10 feet by two Toffs who will win no more elections!

        • Kitty MLB

          Wessex Man, I do not thing Michael Gove should ever be leader, he must stay in his present job, cannot imagine him doing anything else.( there are not too many Cameroons that I approve of, but have a soft spot for him)
          The new leader would be someone sitting quietly on the back benches, a classic Conservative with traditional values and progressive at the same time and he must not find the grass roots of his party an embarrassment.

          • Wessex Man

            Well I hate to disagree with you, but the Tories need someone with fire in their belly not another slishy Call me Dave.

          • Martin Morrison

            How on earth can one be a progressive conservative?

            • the viceroy’s gin

              One can’t. It’s one or the other.

  • Kitty MLB

    Utter gobbledygook, Boris is just a comfort blanket, he’s:
    Cricket, a Evelyn Waugh character, afternoon tea, a wood fire in the winter and
    sausages and mash. He is also Conservative ( at a time when the loathsome Lib Dems seem, to be the front part of a pantomime horse- instead of their rightful place at the backside) he eccentric and never to be taken too
    seriously. He most certainly does not have that spark needed to serve a nation
    and he always looks exhausted .
    I believe when we chose leaders, the thoughts of them ever becoming Prime Minister
    are not apparent- I mean, Ed Siliband – How on earth- the mind boggles

    • MirthaTidville

      so apart from that lot, you think Boris is great then?

  • MirthaTidville

    Interesting that so much attention is being focused, at this time, on who is going to succeed Dismal Dave…Most unusual, even for politics. The fact that Cameron cant slap it all down tells you firstly how insecure he really is and secondly just how ruthless the Tories are when it comes to dealing with someone they perceive to be a loser…..Either way good spectator sport, if you pardon the pun Fraser..

    • an ex-tory voter

      Not sure I agree with you on this one. Surely, a ruthless Tory Party would have despatched DC shortly after he failed to win the GE and worse still opted for a coalition and fixed term parliament.
      The mere fact that it has taken so long for the knifes to be sharpened shows just how weak the current Tory Party really is.

      • MirthaTidville

        Yes I agree with you on reflection..They are weak and that is compounding the problem….

      • HookesLaw

        The fact that a bunch of crass loony extreme right wing nutjobs do not like Cameron and think the sun shines out of the toff Nigel Farage’s backside should not worry anybody. Pandering to the crude xenophobic racist and atavistic policies of UKIP is no way for any party let alone the tory party to get elected.

  • James Strong

    It is not ignoble to want to be PM if you think you have the vision and ability to guide the nation to a future that would be better than available alternatives.
    It most certainly is ignoble to want the job if the motivation is personal aggrandisement and the desire simply to be top dog.
    You might say that ambition is a real feature of life, but I still say it’s ignoble.
    Nearly all politicians deserve our distrust.

    • Colonel Mustard

      “Nearly all politicians deserve our distrust”

      Indeed. But apparently that makes us anarchists. We are expected to join a team and shout loudly for it. I might if there were a team free from wonks, spinners and guile.

    • sarahsmith232

      Brilliant post, spot on. This Cameron is doing nothing but blowing in a focus group driven wind. His main, and only, driving force was to achieve the aim of becoming PM, ‘personal aggrandisement’ has been his only visible heartfelt drive so far.
      I personally think that this was a 20something in the 90s when Blair first became Labour leader and set out his New Labour vision. Cameron, Osbourne and the rest of the 20something members of the Metro media/political elite were all seduced by his vision, apparently. ‘Course, problems arose when Brown was blocking it all. About as much as a just about discernible to the naked eye Cameron ‘vision’ for the country is the finishing of the Brown blocked New Labour project. One which very much includes the use of mass immigration to ‘rub the right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments obsolete’.
      Cameron stands for nothing much other than policies that his focus group feedback tells him might get him a few percentage points more than Labour in 2015, outside of that, nothing, an empty space with Lynton Crosby filling in the blanks for him. Useless.

      • Colonel Mustard

        There was a leak recently that everything in Cameron’s inner circle is pre-determined on how “it will play”. God knows who gets polled to determine this but I reckon as large a proportion of the country must be disqualified from being polled as they are alienated by Cameron.

        • Kitty MLB

          How much more “alienated ” will they feel if Milipede
          were to win the next general election.

          • Wessex Man

            would they really, it strikes me that Labour and the Tories under Cameron are much of a likeness and the Lib/dums are done for, so stand by for UKip holding the balance of power, oh happy days!

        • sarahsmith232

          Agreed, absolutely agree. For me, I can’t help but think that all of this business that his lot seem intent on with that whole – ‘elections are always from the centre ground, must not ever move from centre, so any Ukip-like statement must always be avoided’ type thing. Problem – their precious centre ground doesn’t ever seem to making it’s presence felt in terms of election results.
          I personally believe this is prob’ cause they’re going off what was the centre ground in 2005 when he became leader. By the time of the next election it’s going to be a full 10yrs later, every kind of social attitudes survey going shows we’ve been moving steadily and decidedly rightwards since but they’re all still determined to stick their great, mythical centre ground based on their 10yr old association with it. The centre ground is now quite right-wing, Cameron’s understanding of the centre is now what most would see as Labour party ‘progressive’ PC leftist claptrap. The male can’t see it though. Useless.
          Anyway, enjoy your day.

      • Kitty MLB

        Actually the majority of this country were foolishly seduced by the
        honeyed tongue of the arch deceiver ( but not I)
        He said, New Labour were the way forward and Conservatism was dead. The Conservative Party were deflated after too many years in opposition. They perhaps should not have chosen someone who was the image of the leader of the opposition. But they did.
        And he unlike Blair has been dealt a very bad hand, and also
        at least he is not Labour, if people think there will be no difference
        then the fools will be in for a nasty surprise. Yet I know this
        thought helps my little Kipper friends.

        • sarahsmith232

          Do you remember this? Blair in ’99 having one of his Messianic moments –
          ‘A New Britain where the extraordinary talent of the British people is liberated from the forces of conservatism that so long have held them back, to create a model 21st century nation’
          ‘New Labour, confident at having modernised itself, now the new progressive force in British politics which can modernise the nation, sweep away those forces of conservatism to set the people free’
          This should have been setting off every kind of bell, whistle and flashing warning light but, I have to admit, I didn’t get it all until far too late. This was England he was intending to ‘sweep away’, all our traditions, values, customs, history, our nation basically. They did it as well, it an unbelievable clip they’ve wiped out English culture in so many of our cities. There’s nothing left in London. They all still boast about this, they consider this New Labour’s greatest achievement. They disgust me.

  • alabenn

    Boris has said he will serve out his term as Mayor, no one but the media would even notice this supposed little spat.
    It is a pointless column filler because even if he became an MP their is no chance of him becoming leader.
    The only time it would matter would be if Boris said he was going to stand asap and if elected, challenge immediately for the leadership, that he will not do so speculation is pointless if not entertaining.

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