30 Sep 2011

Will Toby Young win his £15,000 bet?

There’s an interesting article by Toby Young in the latest Spectator in which he reveals that in 2003 he bet Nigella Lawson that Boris Johnson would become leader of the Conservatives by 2018.

So far, so good.  Especially if Johnson wins re-election as London Mayor next May, as recent polls suggest he will.  Then what?  Toby Young reckons Johnson will very soon try to get back into the Commons without stepping down as Mayor.
That won’t be easy.  There won’t be many spare Conservative seats at the next election because of the boundary changes and reduction in the number of MPs, a process which is being carefully managed by the party.  Sitting MPs won’t take kindly to losing their seat to someone who already has several well-paid jobs.

And realistically Johnson could only hope to secure selection, and fulfil a typical Johnsonian multiple role, if he was candidate or MP for somewhere in the south east.

As for a by-election, he might as well forget it.  By-elections are exceedingly rare these days, especially on the Tory side.  Astonishingly, there have been only three genuine by-elections in safe Tory seats in the last 10 years, and one of those was in Henley when Johnson stepped down to become mayor.  (I don’t count the David Davis farce in Haltemprice + Howden.)

More remarkable still, in the last decade only one sitting Conservative MP – Eric Forth – has died and caused a by-election.  Boris’s only hope would be to bump someone off … or persuade brother Jo to give up his seat.

Nonetheless, I agree with Toby Young that BJ would probably love to be Tory leader.  He may well get there in the end, though I suspect not by the Lawson-Young bet deadline of 2018.