If you’ve been watching the news in the UK today you can’t have missed that Boris Johnson, a leading figure in the leave campaign and thought to be a certainty to take over from David Cameron to become the next Prime Minister, has not put himself forward for the job.
This stunned Conservative MP’s who we lining up to speak to the press to endorse him and led to some crowing in political circles that this was the end of his career.
In this post I look at why I believe this is actually a master political move on his part and, far from ending his career, may have just guaranteed that he will be the next elected Conservative Prime Minister of the UK after David Cameron’s immediate successor no matter what happens with the ‘Brexit’.
Before I start, as I’m writing this in the midst of writing posts explaining media bias and how to verify sources I’ve decided that on balance I should label this as editorial/opinion rather than just an analasys piece.
I’ve tried to write this post from a neutral perspective as with my other posts and I believe that what I’ve written is fair and balanced but as I’m not explaining analysing economics, business behaviour, markets, phsycology or explaining a concept I feel labeling it as editorial/opinion is the best way to go.
I don’t intend to do many of these pieces overall as the idea is to explain concepts,event and impacts but I think explaining today’s events surrounding the Conservative leadership race is important and I’ll explain why below.
What’s the difference between an Editorial/Opinion piece versus a analysis/news?
Wikipedia has a pretty good explanation which I’ve included below for your reference but news/analysis are meant to be a neutral view without the views of the author expressed and without inference. Opinion pieces normally reflect the opinions of the publication/editor/writer and give a view on the news.
An editorial, leading article (US) or leader (UK), is an opinion piece written by the senior editorial staff or publisher of a newspaper, magazine, or any other written document. Editorials may be supposed to reflect the opinion of the periodical.
Why does it matter?
Because it’s really important to understand whether the information being provided to you is a clear analysis of facts with both sides of the story and conclusions based on those facts or whether it’s opinion as they are two very different things.
OK with that explained, here we go!
Boris Johnson is the former Mayor of London and a leading figure in the Leave campaign who was widely expected to become the new leader of the Conservative party and replace David Cameron as the UK’s next Prime Minister (PM).
Boris is a career politician and has always wanted to be PM so when he didn’t put himself forward for the job it stunned Conservative MP’s, many of whom we’re queuing up to speak to every news outlet to endorse him.
If you manage to find some footage from the live feeds of news channels who were speaking to Conservative MP’s when Boris made his announcement it’s worth a watch. Many were checking their phones for news and trying to form a coherent opinion and who they were going to support next, all on camera.
The reason for their understandable confusion was that although there was a small ‘anyone but Boris’ lobby in the Conservative party, the reality was that he was a shoe in.
What was the reaction?
Confusion, followed by some scrambling for possible reasons, anger from some and, in some quarters, gloating that Boris was finished and they saw this coming.
Some MP’s quickly pointed to the fact the Micheal Gove had put his hat into the ring, someone who had been thought likely to be Boris’ number two, and this felt like a betrayal.
Why did he do it?
I think Boris Johnson has just managed to get the best of all worlds for himself personally and almost guarantee that he will be the next elected UK Conservative Prime Minister after whoever is selected by the current process.
By not putting his hat into the ring and allowing there to be speculation that he has been ‘betrayed’ by the conservative party he is now going to get to ‘hold the government to account’ and that they ‘abide by the result’ of the referendum.
The way some Conservative MP’s are talking about his career being over, or him being stabbed in the back also helps massively as it builds a case for him to go to the public later and say “I would have done it but I didn’t have support from my party when I tried”.
In effect this means that he gets to complain about what happpens either way with no responsibility himself, if the UK leaves and it’s a car crash he’ll point to David Camerons successor, if the UK leaves and succeeds then he gets the credit, if the UK stays he get’s to act like his disappointed, if the union breaks it wasn’t on his watch, if service companies leave he gets to fight on a platform of bringing them back.
Basically stand back, pay lip service to whatever happens, wait for the explosion, see what’s left and align himself with the majority.
All of these scenarios leave Boris Johnson with a huge upside for being patient while getting to stay in the public eye. I predict that he’ll also likely turn down any serious role in whoever wins government with a statement that runs something along the lines of ‘I feel I can better hold the government to account from the back benches’.
If you can set aside any rage you may feel for a second and the economic damage this is going to cause, which will effect those least able to deal with it, you have to admire the huge machiavellian skill with which he’s just played ten moves ahead in political chess against an electorate, opposition and party that was barely playing naughts and crosses.
What do you think?
If you have thoughts on this or any other post please let me know, I’m always happy to be persuaded of a different viewpoint and I really appreciate any feedback you have.
Sources and Further Reading
I’ve tried to pick some news stories that cover this from other perspectives and explain more of the background below.
- Boris Johnson rules himself out of Conservative leader race – BBC News
- Michael Gove: Boris Johnson wasn’t up to the job – BBC News
- Lord Heseltine slams Boris Johnson for ‘abandoning his army – The Guardian
- Boris Johnson: I’m Not Running For Leadership – Sky News
- Conservative MPs in uproar as Boris Johnson ‘rips party apart’ by withdrawing from leadership contest after ambush by Michael Gove – the Telegraph
- Like Michael Heseltine, Boris Johnson was in prime position – but knife wielders never wear the crown – The Telegraph
- Heseltine launches scathing attack on Boris Johnson – BBC News