When Boris Johnson got out of bed this morning and stared into the mirror, looking back at him was the favourite candidate to win the Conservative leadership and become Britain’s next Prime Minister. It is not yet lunchtime and that dream is over. He has announced that he will not be standing in the contest, in a speech where he milked the drama by only announcing his intentions at the very end. He was silent on where his support now lay.
Michael Gove’s decision to stand for leader has shattered his leadership bid. With Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox also in the field, the Leave constituency has been splintered, undermining support for Boris within the parliamentary party. But Gove dealt the fatal blow. His character assassination struck at the heart of Boris’s claims to be leader and has led him to depart from the race.
A number of questions now arise, which will begin to be answered in the coming days:
- Where will supporters of Boris now move?
- Will Michael Gove be main beneficiary or might we see transfers moving in the direction of Liam Fox or Andrea Leadsom?
- Is Gove now in a position to attract support from across the party?
- What will happen to the infrastructure and personnel who were lined up to drive Boris’s campaign?
- In particular, which candidate might Sir Lynton Crosby now move to assist?
- Most fundamentally, what does Boris do now? Who will he support in the leadership race?
- And has this episode opened up a new political feud that could undermine the Conservative Party in the years to come?
- Will the fracturing of the race now allow someone other than Gove or May to make it to the final two?
- How will party membership react now that their supposed favourite Johnson is not on the ballot?
By Lexington Communications