But will he suffer the Tory front-runner curse?
This morning’s announcement by Mrs May that she is Stepping down did not come as a surprise and indeed there has been a lot of activity over her replacement over the past few weeks. On Betfair, the betting exchange where it is punters exchanging bets between themselves not the bookmakers who fix the odds, the former Foreign Secretary and Mayor of London is now evens favourite to be Britain’s next PM after a period when his odds have tightened rapidly.
The only problem he faces, of course, is what has become the curse that afflicts the front runners in Tory leadership races. Apart from Michael Howard in 2003 who was given a coronation the front runner in period leading up to the vacancy has never got it in modern times.
The first Tory leadership election after PB had been founded in 2004 was the one that succeeded Michael Howard’s failure to prevent a third Tony Blair workable majority in 2005. All the long-term money had been on David Davis yet suddenly part, apparently out of nowhere, David Cameron emerged as a serious contender then made a big speech at his Party Conference and thereafter the prospects of DDavis declined.
Johnson has of course being the frontrunner before and was very much expected to succeed David Cameron following his resignation immediately after the referendum in June 2016. For whatever reason, and there have been interesting TV dramatisations, Johnson pull himself out of the race after Michael Gove entered it on that amazing Thursday morning three years ago.
The process, as we are all no doubt very familiar, is that there is a series of ballots amongst CON MPs to draw up a shortlist of 2 to go to the membership. It is here that it is thought that Johnson might struggle and his main worry, I’d suggest, is if another prominent pro brexit here emerges and there are several who who you can see moving into the frame.
Johnson’s reputation is based on the untested notion that he reaches voters that other potential leaders are unable to do. But he’s a bit older now and a reputation for playing the fool might not be the best recommendation for his parliamentary colleagues. He’s also known to be not that clubbable with fellow MPs a characteristic that might prove problematical once the voting starts.
This is, I believe, the first time ever that a prime minister will be chosen by the membership of a party. Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair in 2007 without being troubled by a contest and of course 3 years ago Theresa May got the job when Andrea leadsom, who had also made the final two, pulled out following her controversial comments about being a mother.