London, Aug. 6: British politics is suddenly in a state of turmoil with Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, settling years of speculation by confirming today that he will run for Parliament at the next general election in May next year.
Johnson, widely seen as a credible challenger to David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party and a possible future Prime Minister, announced: “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.”
Cameron, who is on holiday in Portugal, had to cope yesterday with the unexpected resignation of Sayeeda Warsi as senior foreign office minister after the only Muslim woman in government said Britain’s support for Israel’s military strategy was “morally indefensible”.
Prominent among the senior Tories who backed Warsi was Johnson who said he had “great respect” for Warsi, adding: “She has done a great job for us and I hope she will be back as soon as possible.”
Johnson was re-elected mayor of London for a four year period in 2012 — with strong support from British Indian voters, it has to be said. He is a frequent visitor to India since his wife, Marina, is half Sikh — she is the daughter of the late BBC journalist Sir Charles Wheeler and his wife, Dip Singh.
Cameron, who has been to India three times as Prime Minister and once as Opposition leader, has also invested heavily in strengthening relations with New Delhi. There is a suggestion he may make one more trip – to meet Narendra Modi. The Indian vote in about 20 marginals is going to be
critical next May.Johnson made his announcement today at the end of a speech in which he argued that Britain could flourish outside the EU.
Cameron has promised the British people that should the Tories win the next election, he will hold an “in/out” referendum in which voters will decide whether Britain remains a member of the EU.
The Indian government as well as British Indian businessmen in the UK believe it is better for them if Britain remains a member of the EU.
But another referendum will take place first on September 18 to decide an equally fundamental constitutional question – whether Scotland remains a part of the UK.
The campaign for Scottish independence is being led by the Scotland’s First Minister, Alex
Salmond, who heads the devolved Scottish parliament in Edinburgh.
The case for Scotland remaining in the union – “Better Together” – is being headed by Alistair
Darling, who became chancellor of the exchequer when Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair as the
Labour prime minister.
Last night Salmond and Darling clashed in their first head to head debate on the commercial
Scottish television network, STV. A snap poll by ICM for the Guardian newspaper immediately
afterwards indicated Darling may have scored a narrow victory over the SNP leader, winning the
debate by 56 per cent to 44 per cent. But the gap between the two sides is closing.
Last night’s debate over the future of Scotland has been overshadowed by today’s news that
Johnson expects to run for parliament nine months from now. Cameron, who tweets almost as much as Modi, “welcomed” the announcement: “Great news that Boris plans to stand at next year’s general election — I’ve always said I want my star players on the pitch.” But a BBC presenter quipped on Radio 4: “Just as well you cannot see gritted teeth on radio.”
With mock modesty, Johnson said there was no guarantee he would get a seat but the truth is many constituencies will vie for his custom.
It is known there will a vacancy in Uxbridge in west London, a seat with a substantial Indian population where John Randall, the Tory deputy chief whip, is standing down next May. His majority in 2010 was a handsome 11,216.
Johnson would not be drawn on whether he would like to replace Cameron as Prime Minister. Some people think Johnson cannot be taken seriously because is forever clowning around and making people laugh. Others say this his tousled look is carefully cultivated and that he is the most brilliant man in British politics.
He was certainly able to make Kajol laugh when he bumped into the Bollywood actress when they he got off a flight in Mumbai in November 2012.
Contemporaries at Eton and Oxford, both Johnson and Cameron are adept at turning on the charm. “I would like to see if I could be useful again in Westminster, because when I was there last time after all we were in opposition and I spent quite a lot of the time bashing away at Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and pretty miserable it was,” Johnson said today. “I’d love to see what it’s like in government.”