A year ago, James Forsyth proclaimed an “Exclusive” as he told “Boris Johnson will not be standing in 2015”. He was unequivocal: “Boris Johnson will not stand for parliament at the next election, The Spectator understands. The Mayor of London has told the Cameron circle that he will not seek to return to the Commons in a pre-2015 by-election, nor will he stand at the general election”.
There was more: “Boris’s decision not to be a candidate in 2015 indicates that he expects Cameron still to be Prime Minister and party leader after the general election. He has told friends that he has no desire to spend three years serving under Cameron. He reasons that if Cameron loses, creating a Tory leadership vacancy, he’ll be able to persuade an MP to rapidly stand aside for him”.
And the upshot of this absolutely certain Bozza decision? “The news that Boris is not standing in 2015 will come as a relief to Cameron’s allies. It removes one potential general election distraction; CCHQ was distinctly concerned about the possibility of him standing in Croydon South. They’ll also be reassured that Boris now thinks Cameron is likely to end up back in Downing Street”.
Although the “Boris not standing” meme was also revived early in March this year – the Telegraph and Guardian both ran the story, with the Standard following the same afternoon – that Forsyth claimed an “Exclusive” and went into such detail – with such certainty – made his piece a hostage to fortune. And, with suitable shamelessness, it is the same magazine that has shown Forsyth got it wrong. Very wrong.
Because Bozza has, this morning, confirmed what had been an open secret for some time: of course he is looking to return to Parliament next year. After such successes as, er, the cycle hire scheme that is losing money hand over fist, together with the vanity cable car and all those vanity buses that keep breaking down – when they’re not frying their occupants – being an MP must look appealing.
On top of that, the Spectator has clearly had advance briefing of Bozza’s volte face, enough notice for him to be on the cover of this week’s issue, where Harry Mount and Isabel Hardman have had time to prepare their analyses of The Great Man. Ms Hardman even mulls over where Bozza may deign to stand, so that the electorate can ease the progress to Parliament of Himself Personally Now.
Quite apart from the likelihood that a Tory Party letting Bozza anywhere near the leadership would be signing itself out of power for some time as a result – the voters outside London are not so easily duped by the lovable fool act – he would be a sitting duck for media hatchet jobs. From, oh I dunno, how about the Spectator? Nothing like another U-turn to keep sales up, eh?
High principles. Accuracy. Consistency. And not in the Spectator any time soon.