Features

Boris in the wilderness

3 October 2015

9:00 AM

3 October 2015

9:00 AM

Five months ago, allies of Boris Johnson were ready to launch his bid to become leader of the Conservative party. The election was imminent and even David Cameron was fretting that the Tories were going to lose. A sympathetic pollster had prepared the numbers that made the post-defeat case for Boris: he extended the Tories’ reach, and a party that had failed to gain a majority for 23 years desperately needed a greater reach. There was a policy agenda ready to magnify this appeal, too: compassionate conservatism, based around adopting the Living Wage. Boris had kept a plausible distance from these preparations. But one of those charged by No. 10 with sniffing out plots against the Prime Minister says of the Boris operation, ‘Everything was geared to make it happen. Anything short of just shy of a majority, and it would have been in play.’

It was not to be. To everyone’s amazement, Cameron won an overall majority. When the Prime Minister arrives at the Tory conference in Manchester this weekend he will be master of all he surveys. The party has adopted an official slogan: ‘stability, security and opportunity’. But for Cameron, one word will suffice: ‘vindication’. His extraordinary election victory, to his mind, justifies everything from his decision to modernise the Tories to his going into coalition with the Liberal Democrats. His dream — being the first Tory leader since Baldwin to quit of his own volition — has never been closer to reality.

The Labour party conference was a reminder that the Tories now look set for ten more years in power, not just five, and plans are being made on that basis. Mr Cameron has chosen a date for his departure: his closest allies in Downing Street have been told that he intends to announce he’s leaving in the spring of 2019. The Tory leadership race would then take place over the summer, with the new leader introducing themself to the country at the party conference that autumn. He wants that leader to be his Chancellor and good friend George Osborne. One of Cameron’s closest confidants tells me, ‘There’s such momentum behind George — and David is so happy about that.’ He thinks the Chancellor would be ‘fantastic’ as his successor.

Where does this leave this magazine’s former editor, who swapped journalism for politics so that he could become prime minister? To have a shot, he needs to be one of two candidates chosen by Tory MPs to go forward to a vote of all party members. Reaching this stage requires a tribe, a network of support inside Parliament. But that isn’t Boris’s strong point: he isn’t a natural Westminster insider. He is used to being adored, and not so good at the grind of making friends and influencing people — especially MPs he may regard as dull, vain or both. One Boris-inclined grandee complains, ‘He keeps saying, “We must meet up.” But nothing happens.’ An Oxford contemporary of Boris’s remarks: ‘He has never had a gang, and that’s his problem.’

Tory backbenchers have been struck by how even those MPs who worked with the Mayor in City Hall don’t seem particularly close to him. One influential backbencher who is friendly with the Mayor says despairingly, ‘I don’t think Boris has an operation.’ To make matters worse, Boris is up against someone who is a master at this kind of politics. Osborne is the consummate insider and is busy building up a quite awesome network of support. He has worked hard at proving that he rewards those loyal to him, using reshuffles to demonstrate his personal power of patronage.

Serving as the Chancellor’s parliamentary aide is a solid career move for any MP: four of those who did so in the last Parliament now sit round the cabinet table. He is assiduously courting the new intake of Tory MPs too. Every new bug who spoke in the economy debate at the start of this Parliament has received a personal note of thanks from the Chancellor. Every single member of the 2015 intake will be invited to dinner at No. 11 before the end of the year. Osborne’s long leadership campaign has begun.


It is tempting to say that all this shouldn’t make a difference; that the Tory leadership race should be about who would be best for the party and the country. But in politics, these seemingly little things matter. MPs, even more than the rest of us, want to feel loved: knowing the name of everyone’s spouse will undoubtedly be worth a few votes in this contest. If Boris is to make the final two, he needs to get better at this aspect of the job.

Part of Boris’s problem at the moment is that he cannot claim to Tory MPs that he is one of them. He might be a MP — but his day job is being Mayor of London. He is one of the new intake but also a parliamentary veteran; a member of the political cabinet but not in the actual cabinet. He frantically pedals between City Hall and Parliament in an effort to be present in both places; when he leaves one building for another, his team send a text to their colleagues saying ‘Incoming’. But it is only his absence that is noticed. Boris famously once declared that his position on cake is both pro-having it and pro-eating it. But at the moment he is managing to do neither. The Chancellor has also stolen his signature policy, announcing a National Living Wage in his most recent budget. The Mayor is now a man without a plan.

Boris is trying. But he faces what one supporter describes as an ‘orchestrated low-level sniping campaign’. When he makes a mistake, it quickly becomes the talk of Westminster. Recently, he made a rather obvious attempt to be more engaged at political cabinet — he had been stung by reports that he wasn’t saying enough at these meetings, which are largely designed for his benefit. But the effect was rather spoiled by his habit of chuntering away while others are speaking. This offended precisely those people he needs to court.

His allies console themselves by saying that the leadership election is years away; this is ‘powder-dry time’ and the Mayor is happy to let others make the running while the ball is still in the scrum. Indeed, Boris will make a conspicuous display of loyalty at conference by, unlike in previous years, staying for Cameron’s speech. But this conference is taking place in Manchester, the heart of Osborne’s northern powerhouse, and will be very much the George and Dave show.

Boris could even be squeezed out of this leadership contest altogether. Tories with long memories are quick to claim that the Cameron campaign in 2005, managed by one G. Osborne, told some of their supporters to lend their votes to David Davis in the final parliamentary round to keep Liam Fox, a more formidable candidate, off the membership ballot. They speculate that the same could be done to Boris this time round unless he recruits more allies in the Commons.

The worry for Boris is that the 2010 intake, the largest group among MPs, are beginning to flex their muscles. The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, indicates on page 24 that she will run, family permitting, and believes that it is imperative that there is a female candidate in the race. Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary and a protégé of the Chancellor’s, is also considering a tilt at the top job. Those close to Osborne stress that he and Javid have not made any Granita-style deal. But one cabinet ally of the two men predicts that the pair will end up running on a joint ticket.

In all this leadership manoeuvring, Jeremy Corbyn has emerged as Osborne’s unlikely ally. The Chancellor’s weakness is that, while he may be the pilot who weathered the economic storm, he can’t match Boris’s charismatic appeal. But the Tories don’t need some brilliant populist to beat Corbyn, they just need someone half competent. As one minister puts it: ‘Boris hasn’t got a chance as long as Corbyn is Labour leader. He’s the one you pick if we need a bit extra, something special — and, at the moment, we don’t.’

So at present, it seems like only a political tidal wave could halt Osborne — and one may arrive, in the form of the EU referendum. The Chancellor will almost certainly vote to stay in. Should the Mayor campaign to leave, he would instantly separate himself from Cameron and Osborne and align himself with the instincts of a large swath of both Tory MPs and the grass roots membership. One well-connected Tory peer who will support and raise money for Osborne says, ‘If it wasn’t for the European issue, George’s network would make him unstoppable.’

Yet it is not at all clear which way Boris will jump on Europe. Friends say he is torn between an instinctive belief that Britain must play a role in Europe and a sense that the renegotiation is being mishandled. A senior source at City Hall says that the Mayor has met Dominic Cummings, the leader of the nascent ‘No’ campaign, to ask about his strategy. But he has not decided which side of the fence to come down on, and is unlikely to do so soon. Those who know Boris best point out that despite his devil-may-care persona he is surprisingly cautious and doesn’t take a risk until he absolutely has to.

Favourites, notoriously, tend not to win Tory leadership contests — so it might be a mixed blessing for Osborne to find himself moving ahead. But the Chancellor is not a man to let a lead slip. As one No. 10 aide jokes, ‘It isn’t so much a shadow operation, but one that overshadows us.’ Staffed with the best and the brightest, with little regard to party loyalty and a meritocratic disregard for old connections, it is distinctly Osborne. If the economy suddenly tanks, Osborne’s prospects could go down with it. But he is leaving as little to chance as possible.

Perhaps worst of all for Boris, many cabinet ministers have already written off his chances. One observed to me recently that his moment has come and gone — that his ‘timing was just a bit off’. But this isn’t quite right. Politics isn’t following the script at the moment, and referendums have a habit of changing everything. The migration crisis has put the EU vote back in the balance. Tellingly, No. 10 is already fretting about the ‘In’ campaign. If it flounders, then that is the time for Boris to pounce — but if he doesn’t overcome his risk aversion, then his greatest political achievement will be having been Mayor of London. As Shakespeare has Brutus observe, ‘We must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.’

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Show comments
  • Martha

    “‘There’s such momentum behind George — and David is so happy about that.’ He thinks the Chancellor would be ‘fantastic’ as his successor.”

    Ha ha – as if George hasn’t been the boss all along! Cameron is just a plastic PR puppet for hedge funds, billionaires and media barons. Osborne will be a slightly more animated version of that.

  • misomiso

    Europe or a Chinese crash could undo it for Osborne.

    • Martha

      Could also do it for Labour, a newly-invigorated party ready to fight with 3 times the members of the Tories.

  • Martha

    “the heart of Osborne’s northern powerhouse”. Is that an actual thing and not something in the imagination of Osborne and the BBC? As a Northerner, I don’t know a single person who thinks it means anything. The Redcar debacle is the perfect testament to the Tories’ disdain for the north of this country.

  • Bobby Mac

    ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’. Without an optimistic outlook on that, Osborne will be lost. Boris’s best chance is indeed to keep his powder dry. If, however, austerity is seen to have failed, don’t assume that Boris or any other Tory leader will beat Corbyn or whoever has succeeded him by then. Our economic recovery is far from solid and Brexit would probably make it worse in the short term. So James, you should refrain from this ‘Osborne inevitable’ theme – a lot can happen between now and Spring 2019.

  • Bodkinn

    I would have thought that being associated with too many
    vote losing ‘nasty’ policies would cook Osborne’s goose if he is not
    careful. It is no good voting in a
    leader who is already odious in the mind of the voters.

    • Caractacus

      I think Britain would vote for Pinochet over Corbyn.

  • Caractacus

    As much as I like Boris, he is making a lot of mistakes at the moment and his public profile has all but disappeared. I fancy he’s overworked trying to do both jobs. Moreover, if he lets TFL destroy Uber out of spite, then he’s finished as a credible Tory. Again, Boris on top form would never have let such a situation come about. It’s a shame, I think he does have a lot to offer the country and he’s always entertaining, but at the moment he’s not giving anything and personal ambition is stopping him remembering that he’s a public servant.

  • Johnny Foreigner

    Duplicitous, yes, duplicitous. Good bye Boris, thanks for playing. Phew.

  • ardenjm

    It was finished for Boris when the crest of the wave of the 2012 Olympics ran out onto the sand.
    He just didn’t realise it.
    But perhaps in 25 years or so, when Islamism starts making life a daily misery rather than a periodic misery, he’ll have his time….

    • Johnny Foreigner

      You paint a lovely picture.

      • tjamesjones

        welcome to the Spectator BTL

      • tjamesjones

        welcome to the Spectator BTL

  • Bob339

    I hope this creature leaves the UK soon. He is a toxic parasite.

  • Grace Ironwood

    Wonderful as he is, Boris will doubtless have another moment in the future.

    When we do “need something special” I have my doubts as to whether Boris’s personal political preferences will serve. He has appeared somewhat malleable in office.

  • WalterSEllis

    Boris needs powerful friends. It is not enough to be (if Google Translate can be trusted) Rex Minimi Populus.

    • Johnny Foreigner

      Are you referring to the little people of Knotty Ash? Has Ken Dodd stood down?

  • Kingbingo

    Apparently he is trying to work out if supporting EU exit will help him win the leadership. What a phony. At least Cameron is upfront about being a unblinking europhile.

    Javid is our last best hope for salvaging the Tory party.

  • Jabez Foodbotham

    Looks more like Bladdersley than Boris, What a fate.

  • Bo Williams

    After the Tories won in 1987 who would have thought John Major would be Prime Minister by the end of 1990? Most people had never heard of him. George Osborne can butter up every MP as much as he wants but come 2019, when Cameron steps down, the Tories will pick the person most likely to win them the coming general election.

  • ohforheavensake

    I’d be glad if Osborne gets it. He’s not that popular in the country.

    • RonnieTimewarp

      Same, except I think he’s seen – rightly or wrongly – as a more credible politician. I think Corbyn could make mincemeat out of either in a straight-talking (ahem) debate, but Osbourne is very good at being a political b*****d, if Boris won that malevolence would perhaps be turned on him rather than the opposition.

  • ButcombeMan

    The ridiculous “Boris Island” lost it for Boris

  • liberalinlosangeles

    BoJo can very quickly get a gang (both inside and outside of Parliament) by sticking up for Social Conservatives. He’s not a social conservative, but the way they’ve been isolated and marginalized and treated as if they aren’t a huge chunk of the voting public with perfectly respectable and rational views- in the UK is astounding.

    Essentially BoJo could take a “liberal” tack, the only one in modern British politics to do so.

    And he could get away with it because he’s so obviously NOT himself a social conservative.

    “It’s not that I agree with all their views, but they have a legitimate right to represent them and advocate for them- and this right has been banished in the UK in the past few decades….the system is stacked to gut them.”

    And Osborne so clearly hates social conservatives.

    And Labour and Liberal Dems literally could not follow BoJo here (don’t give me that nonsense about the new LibDem leader being a social conservative- he’d as soon arrest a social conservative for dare uttering an objection to a piece of leftist social legislation than talk to one).

    • jeremy Morfey

      I did notice how UKIP’s stock rose among social conservatives after the disgraceful “gay marriage” passage through Parliament, which was anything but democratic, and was set up rather by a malicious chip on the shoulder. Which of the opposition parties is going to spot this and take up the mantle, leaving Tories with a choice between an economically-dry, but socially liberalist PM and a social conservative whose economic policies need a bit of work? Or, as you suggest, a social conservative who is also economically dry…

      It is presumed conventionally that those on the Right economically are also on the Right socially, but Pope Francis demonstrates this is not necessarily so. While undeniably on the Left economically, the Holy Father’s commitment to the dismantling of ancient social institutions is lukewarm at most. The true opposite therefore to George Osborne’s position, but it’s debatable whether it’s more popular.

      My feeling is that before the election George Osborne’s apparent competence for economics will be exposed as emperor’s trousers (but then so might BoJo’s) and there will one god-almighty crisis to cover up with celebrity spin and probably WW3. I also suspect that, given the paucity of talent in Parliament right now, the wartime PM and new leadership will emerge from outside conventional politics – something that is not lost on the SNP, UKIP, the Greens (although they blew it with Bennett), and now Corbyn’s Labour. Don’t rule out either a resurgence of royal popularity: Prince Harry in particular is emerging in middle age away from the fairly brainless but eager squaddie into something altogether much more rounded and impressive, probably with the willing assistance of his fantastically experienced grandmother.

      • wildcolonialboy

        How was the passage of the marriage equality bill through parliament not democratic? A majority of the House of Commons voted for it. Then a majority of the Lords voted for it. Then it received the Royal Assent and was duly enacted.

        If you don’t think that’s democratic, then you appear to be under a great misapprehension about how our system works and has done for the last few centuries.

        • jeremy Morfey

          This Bill was passed through Parliament without it being in the election manifestos of any party standing in 2010. Furthermore, while the Liberal Democrat position may have been predictable, nobody voting Conservative in 2010 could have predicted that this was what they were mandating.

          It was not in the Queen’s Speech. There was no White Paper or Green Paper and the “public consultation” was presented as a fait accompli. Lynne Featherstone, now ennobled for her efforts, told the nation during the consultation stage that we will get it whether we like it or not.

          The Second Reading debate was a disgrace with the mover of the motion, Maria Miller, and the opposition front bench spokeswoman, Yvette Cooper, using 45 minutes each to give the same speech. Those opposing the motion had to catch the Speaker’s eye for their 3 minutes along with those supporting the motion. Its passage through the Lords was whipped and guillotined through.

          There was no overwhelming public demand for it. All the polls put support at around 50/50. Mostly the young were in favour, and the old were against.

          No consideration was given to those with a conscientious objection to this revised definition. In my own Church, marriage is one of the seven Sacraments and its definition has been made clear for many centuries, albeit perverted in 1973 when Government made it a temporary state which can be undone unilaterally and subjectively. Most worryingly, parents have the right to bring up children according to their cultural values. To force teachers to go against their own understanding and the wishes of the parents of those they teach, with a threat of exclusion and possible legal action, is abhorrent and certainly undemocratic.

          I do not think it part of the remit of Parliament to redefine a word in my mother tongue. I dislike the move to Orwellian Newspeakism and find it sinister. 1984 explored the idea that by amending language, we can eliminate political of philosophical concepts, and this is what is happening here. Marriage has always until now meant the social expression of the bonding of opposites in symbiotic harmony for the creating of something greater than the constituent parts. It has its roots in the creation of the universe from matter and antimatter, and in our species is expressed sexually. A bonding of like constituents is a union. As a legal arrangement there is no reason why a union should not be as valid as a marriage.

          Finally, the issue of equality was not really addressed, merely abused as a way of spinning the debate. Already single gender unions have been given equal status in law to marriage, and I personally support that. However, despite prompting from Peter Tatchell of Stonewall, civil partnerships were not extended to those heterosexuals who consider marriage an outdated and discredited institution founded on superstition, but willing to consider rather a civil legal arrangement between two people prepared to declare a commitment to one another.

          The malice came from the gay community who are resentful that straights can have their own unique institution and want to take it away from them, and from feminists who believe that men have no place in a woman’s life, and the sooner they are excluded from any intimacy with them, under any pretext, the better for the sisterhood.

        • DaveNewWorld

          Gay couples can’t have children. Just as gay marriage is no such thing. Welcome to Dave New World New speak.

  • JabbaTheCat

    “His leadership campaign is foundering while Osborne surges ahead”

    Excellent news, long may it continue…

  • John Andrews

    If Boris chooses to campaign for leaving the EU and if Osborne campaigns for staying put and loses the argument, then both their positions will undergo dramatic change.

    • RonnieTimewarp

      This is true, but not necessarily for long enough. Don’t forget, three years ago Osbourne was the omnishambles clown, booed in front of the entire world at the Olympics. There are possibly 4-5 (though this seems unlikely) years to go before the Tories choose a new leader. Given enough time Osbourne will probably be able to swing the advantage back to himself.

      As someone who doesn’t want to see them in power past 2020, I can’t decide which I’d rather in charge. Boris is well-liked, we are continually told, but so is Peter Andre – and he’d probably have more gravitas on the world stage than the man who’s marketed himself as this loveable clown, sprung from the pages of some fusty old period drama and made to live in the modern world. Osbourne is more of a statesman (though the bar’s not set high by his opponent), if we had to send one of them to the UN I’d sooner it was him – but he’s not very good at disguising the fact that he’s a ruthless and detached politician, who’s happier playing mind games than actually considering economics.

      Even as someone who dislikes the party, I’d rather their members had more options than two privileged men vying for what they both see as a right rather than an appointed honour.

      • John Andrews

        Borris is a buffoon but has the advantage of being the more Eurosceptic of the two. That’s what matters these days.

        • RonnieTimewarp

          That’s if people are willing to believe that any of his public beliefs are held for greater reasons than the votes they might win him. I don’t think many will. Here in London, at least in my part, we can’t wait to be shot of him.

  • RonnieTimewarp

    I broadly agree with most of the sentiments here about Boris – it’s not hard to look beyond the japes and buffoonery and see a very unpleasant and egotistical man. However, I don’t think Osbourne is any more suited to the job – he seems interested first and foremost in ‘political strategy’, and is lauded for his abilities in this field (the field of backstabbing, briefing against allies, choosing policies for immediate personal advantage over national interest, sugar, spice, all things nice), rarely does he seem interested in the minutiae of running the chancellory, probably for the best given how he doesn’t really seem to understand economics.

    Sadly, the economy looks poised to ‘tank’ again because he seems to have mistaken talking about ‘repairing the roof when the sun is shining’ a lot with actually doing it, that it might keep this thoroughly nasty man from power is little consolation given the damage it will cause. Tricky one.

    • William Mollett

      Boris connects with the public and most self serving MPs (as most are) will appreciate this over any flattery invoked by Osborne. His calculating manoverings were laid bare when, after the crash in oil prices, he laid claim to his brilliant economic strategy in keeping inflation low and in turn interest rates. His temerity in attempting to hood wink the more ignorant of the electorate will come out in the wash to reveal him as a massively disingenuous character.

      • RonnieTimewarp

        People find him amusing, I don’t think it’s the same as connecting with them, nor the same as thinking he’d be the kind of guy you’d send to negotiate with world leaders. Osbourne is certainly a more remote figure, and very hard to like – his status of ‘economic saviour’ really doesn’t seem to extend far beyond the pages of a few papers, so I doubt that’s going to wash, especially if there are Conservative guns turned on him.

  • LoveMeIamALiberal

    A recent poll (on Guido Fawkes’ site) shows that Boris is more popular than Osborne in the country. And that’ll be Osborne undoing; he is not trusted or likeable. In fact, he’s not been that good a chancellor (omnishambles anyone? this year’s changes to the bank levy). At present he looks the natural successor to Cameron, just as Brown looked the natural successor to Blair. Oh dear.

  • Gebhard Von Blucher

    Johnson finished? “A week is a long time in politics”. “Events dear boy, events!”

  • Des Demona

    Ahhhh, so it was Boris who leaked the pig story I take it.
    Behold the revenge of Dave through his minions smiting hip and thigh!

  • Paul Linford

    Isn’t Osborne essentially the Gordon Brown to David Cameron’s Tony Blair? I suspect his succession would yield the same electoral consequences – assuming Labour gets its act together and ditches Corbyn for Dan Jarvis in 2018.

    • jeremy Morfey

      Dan Jarvis would be wise therefore to position himself as Shadow Defence Secretary as soon as his friend Maria Eagle is promoted when Hilary Benn decides to retire to make way for a younger woman. With Andy Burnham in Home Affairs and Angela Eagle in the Treasury, they’re already set up a Shadow Cabinet in waiting. All we need then is a Cinderella to the Ugly Sisters. With the Middle East looking more and more like the Balkans in the 1910s, it is only a matter of time before the assassination of a Saudi prince sets the whole thing off. Jarvis’s military experience may then come in handy.

  • Partner

    Being the assumed natural successor is a dangerous role in politics….Eden, Brown etc.

  • Jonathan Munday

    Everything depends on the result of the Referendum and whether Boris hides his real views and comes out against. If the referendum is for leaving, I dont see how the Conservatives can continue in government they will have no legitimacy to conduct the negotiations necessary, unless they change to a Eurosceptic leader.
    If the referendum is for staying, a lot of party members will be out for revenge especially if the BBC or the government have been especially egregious during the campaign (almost certain).
    George’s inside army only gets their man to the membership. The other candidate can still romp home, vide Corbyn.

  • Tom Wright

    Boris’ only chance of the leadership is the ‘leave’ campaign, which is about the only thing which can derail Osborne, and about the only thing which can allow him to play his top card – popularity in the country. He certainly isn’t popular in the Tory cabinet or MPs and they are the only other viable route.

    If he can’t spot see the risk/benefit equation here he’s unfit to be PM – that’s pretty much the job definition.

    • jeremy Morfey

      My late father’s drinking companion, who became a Tory MP, does not rate Boris much.

      I get the impression from him though that the Tory party does not value intelligence much, and your best chances of promotion are by lying low, not rocking the boat and pretending to be stupid.

      • plainsdrifter

        I’ve never heard such nonsense. What about the team under Margaret Thatcher? They were formidable – on the whole.

        • jeremy Morfey

          Margaret Thatcher left office 25 years ago.

          She offended more people than she impressed, but did she care? My feeling was that she didn’t suffer fools gladly and relished being challenged robustly by a political opponent. She also gave as good as she got. The more intelligent the challenge, the more work she put into her response, and was quite capable of living off four hours sleep a night in order to put in the homework. I felt that she despised political wimps not prepared to go over the top to take her on, especially those in her own party. If the Opposition were wimpish or just plain stupid, then it became more important for her own party members and civil servants to stop her and her Cabinet getting flabby, even though they didn’t always come off best engaging with Mrs T.

          Her weak point of judgement was when she was impressed by someone, she would accept their views as facts and fight for them, even though they were not always right. I first encountered that when she spoke, as Education Secretary under Heath, at a Founder’s Day address in my grammar school, congratulating the Headmaster on the school’s excellent musical achievements, when I knew as a pupil what the shortcomings were. I never got to meet her personally though, since the school rightly considered I might be trouble. I think she might have enjoyed the encounter, but not quite sporting taking on someone smaller than her and too readily squashed.

          My father’s friend commented on today’s Conservative Party, and the rot really set in with Blair. I find the calibre of politicians in all parties a shadow of what they were when I was a teenager, and the nation too a shadow of what it was. Maybe I am getting old and grumpy, and everyone approaching 60 from all generations has said the same thing about their leaders. I know my elders despaired at my generation in the 1970s.

          • plainsdrifter

            Yes, well, cultural characteristics ….. Actually, I think MT gave the old farts’ brigade a bit of a shake-up!

            Totally agree with your last paragraph. And it has nothing to with being old and grumpy. It was shocking to realise that, suddenly, people like Alistair Campbell and Peter Mandelson were two of the most powerful individuals in the country. Tony Blair’s brand of politics also did great damage to our culture.

            Now, it’s worse. Modern politicians have no stature. And most are just out of short trousers. Kids. That might be on the turn, but not in the Labour party. Never mind to that.

      • plainsdrifter

        I’ve never heard such nonsense. What about the team under Margaret Thatcher? They were formidable – on the whole.

  • hobspawn

     “…with the new leader introducing themself to the country…”

    Aaaaaaaagggghh!!!!! Is it just me? Please rid us of ‘journalists’ who can’t even compose basic English. “Themself”! “Themself” for fucksakes! I feel sick.

    • DaveNewWorld

      Used since the 14th century, apparently: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/themself

      I rather like it, vividly suggests one of a number.

      I have rather more of a problem with your grammatically jarring and unpleasant expletive.

      • hobspawn

        From the oxforddictionaries page you cited: “…has re-emerged in recent years corresponding to the singular gender-neutral use of they…”.

        Gender neutral use of they and them belongs in New Statesman articles. ‘Themself’ is a selves-contradictory word, since ‘self’ (singular) refers to ‘them’ (plural). That’s why it sounds wrong, and is wrong, especially referring to a singular subject. I want my language back from these fascist lefty bottom-racers. I know it’s pointless and I will never win, but a cistern contains; a fountain overflows. You can blow your oxforddictionaries page up your gary.

        • William Mollett

          Jarring but then “him or herself” is clumsy. Where do you go?.

          • hobspawn

             “Jarring but then “him or herself” is clumsy. Where do you go?”

            Just use ‘himself’. Traditionally that was fine for both genders. It worked for centuries, at least. Only todger-dodgers put gender before number. If you care what they think, then just use ‘herself’. Men won’t mind.

            Some open source software manuals alternate between him and her throughout, because programmers care about language clarity and recognise that number matters to meaning.

  • Dogsnob

    What is this recent trend in describing Boris as somehow wavering on Europe?

    He is unequivocally for us staying as we are: bound by the EU’s diktat, powerless to resist the inclusion
    of Turkey and the rapid escalation of the programme to mop-up what’s left of European post-Christian civilisation, as it flagellates itself with the prescribed ‘inclusivity’.

  • Happyin Herts

    I find it depressing that Boris may join the ‘Leave’ campaign just to further his chances of the leadership. I contrast him with Nigel Farage who has devoted 20 years to EU exit. That a chancer like Boris would use something as important as this to Britain’s future says a lot about career politicians and their level of trustworthiness.

  • bondi1000

    I stopped reading at ‘themself’.

  • Roger Hudson

    Zac overtakes Boris in Tory favours. Good.

  • The Masked Marvel

    He is used to being adored, and not so good at the grind of making friends and influencing people

    Indeed. It serves him well as a celebrity, but perhaps not as a politician in need of support and real effort from other politicians who have more interest in their own careers than in any shared principles.

  • Retired Nurse

    I hope its IDS…..because the entire party has become a joke.

    • Vera

      Compared to? It was difficult to imagine any party could be more of a joke than the LibDems, or Labour under Militwat after the last election, but Labour has now managed it. What could be more idiotic than putting a vegan in charge of Defra?

  • David J Timson

    Whichever two people are picked by the MPs start level…and I never get the impression Osborne is loved by the rank and file…so the other candidate (unless completely awful, that’s you that is Ms Morgan) will have some advantage by not being Osborne…
    And I’m not really convinced that David Davis (popular with the membership and that Daily Mail at the time…) was easier to beat that Liam Fox…

  • Rob Kay

    If Osborne ever becomes leader of the Tory Party then it can prepare itself for decades in the wilderness: he is an absolutely hopeless communicator. He would be the Gordon Brown to Tony Blair, a great follower perhaps, but an utter lame duck in charge.

  • Vera

    Surely if you are in politics you wouldn’t be indifferent about the EU, either you are pro or anti and feel strongly about it. Only those who are not interested in politics anyway would be ambivalent. I’m sure Boris has an opinion, he’s just not letting us in on it. If he came out on the side of Brexit, he would be a serious rival to Osborne.

  • plainsdrifter

    Boris is a brilliant mayor but would be a disaster as PM. Along with Max Hastings, if Boris got the job, I would emigrate.

  • plainsdrifter

    Boris is a brilliant mayor but would be a disaster as PM. Along with Max Hastings, if Boris got the job, I would emigrate.

  • Ade

    When asked “Is Boris a very clever person, pretending to be dumb?”, a wise man replied, “No.”

  • hdb

    Bounce Boris into supporting leaving the EU should have been the headline.

    This is less not analysis but politicking. The Spectator is so weak and full of opinion when compared to other periodicals like the Economist.

  • Lady Magdalene

    I wonder if Osborne practices trying to wipe his arrogant sneer off his face for the cameras?

    Osborne is simply not likeable. BoJo is. Whoever leads the Conservative Party after Cameron doesn’t just need the votes of Tory MPs and the party membership – he will need the votes of ordinary British people. Can’t see Osborne going down a storm with “the great unwashed.”

  • gerronwithit

    If Boris doesn’t have a position on Europe then what exactly does he have as a position on anything else? The man is an opportunistic buffoon credited with skills only those that live within the Bubble could recognise or even appreciate.

  • Lor: I hope Boris is not really that ugly. Don’t politicians of his prominence have official women? I am too tactful to ask the next question.

  • Terence Hale

    Stuck on a sky lift in the desert Mr. Johnson returning to humanity, making a noise in parliament now want’s to be boss. The boss’s bosses have something against such.

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