18 Jan 2012

Boris at the ’22 and Falklands ‘stunt’ fears

Nine minutes late, Boris Johnson just arrived at the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers to address the MPs. There was a flurry of desk banging as he started just now but this is a tricky audience for the old stager. They want him to win in London, which would be an extraordinary prize in an economic storm.

But he doesn’t have a significant group of Tory MPs who regard him as a future leader. He’d need to change that over the coming few years if he was to have a chance of succeeding his fellow Etonian David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party. He has plenty of support in the grassroots but you need some in Parliament and he starts with very little.

Of course, there’s also the small matter of standing down from a Mayoralty he will have promised to serve through (assuming he won) and finding a way back into Parliament when George Osborne, amongst others, might not be bending over backwards to help.

Earlier, a flurry went round Westminster after the Prime Minister attacked Argentine colonialism over the Falkland Islands. Buenos Aires has been lobbying hard around South America and even Crown Dependencies in the Caribbean getting a range of countries to protest at Britain’s position on the Falklands.

MOD sources have told Tory MPs worried about the Islands that the Argentines can probably no longer easily mount a full-scale invasion and wouldn’t have the appetite for that. But Whitehall fears a stunt of some kind in which Argentine forces plant a flag, say, on British territory, claim an outpost maybe … raising tensions and turning a tetchy rumbling row into something much trickier and more demanding.

UPDATE:

Boris has now emerged from the ’22 Committee after around a dozen questions. One MP said there were about 80 at most MPs in attendance. Questions were all about London – Olympics, riots, airports etc. It was, the MP said, the first time for some new intake 2010 MPs to see Boris in the flesh close up and he got the impression that George Osborne didn’t have too much to worry about in the succession stakes. Officers of the ’22 Committee were less than impressed by Boris turning up late, I hear. Lynton Crosby, his campaign strategist, had to stand in at the beginning and give a few impromptu words while MPs waited for the Mayor to turn up.

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