The text of Boris Johnson’s speech at Bloomberg headquarters on Wednesday has the following helpful subheadings: ‘The European Nightmare’, ‘The Solution – Reform and Referendum’, ‘But Be Prepared for a New Future’, ‘The Dream’. The first part of the speech is devoted to the nightmare of EU health and safety regulations (truck drivers must not drive for more than nine hours a day etc), but Britain could have ‘a great and glorious’ future if it leaves the EU. London is already ‘the America of the European Union’ (because it’s a place of ‘massive opportunity’, not because it’s one of the most unequal cities on earth).
Johnson mentioned that he’d recently been in Bydgoszcz, and praised Poland for having kept out of the euro. Oddly, he didn’t mention seeing his old friend Radek Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister and former Bullingdon Club member who tweeted pictures of them together at the weekend. It’s hard to believe they didn’t discuss the part of Johnson’s speech of most interest to some of their fellow Bullingdonians: ‘So, let me put it this way – I have not got any particular seat lined up but I do think in all probability – since you can’t do these things furtively, I might as well be absolutely clear – in all probability I will try to find somewhere to stand in 2015.’
The Conservative Party has already chosen 74 of its prospective parliamentary candidates. Whether unaligned voters would want Boris Johnson to be their MP is beside the point. The only thing that matters is his appeal to a local Conservative Association, and for the last paid-up members of a dying grassroots party, Johnson would be irresistible: imagine the attendance at the next summer fete.
There’s speculation that Johnson might look to be selected in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, whose longstanding MP (majority at the last election: 11,216) is retiring. This would present a staggering conflict of interest for a mayor of London who is pushing for a new airport in the Thames Estuary to replace Heathrow – and makes all Johnson’s pronouncements on the subject even more suspect than they have already been. He may have local support for the move – the current Conservative leader of Hillingdon Council has campaigned against a third runway at Heathrow whenever it’s been suggested.
There are plenty of powerful arguments against HS2, but when Johnson has weighed in locally, he’s attacked the proposed connection from the high speed line at Ickenham to Heathrow: it’s ‘a ludicrous waste of money and should be scrapped’. Howard Davies, the chairman of the Airports Commission says that the coalition has asked him to delay his report on the future of London’s airports until after the election. Johnson has called the commission’s approach ‘gloopy and tangled’. Davies accused of the mayor of ‘vulgar abuse’.
There’s an orgy of interest in what Johnson will do and where he will stand. One option that doesn’t appear to be on the table is his stepping down as mayor to take up a seat outside London. Still, north-west Londoners desperate to have an old Etonian and Bullingdonian for an MP need only move north across the boundary to Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, which has been represented since 2010 by Nick (son of Douglas) Hurd.