I WROTE last week that Boris Johnson was looking unbeatable in the race to be prime minister. Seven days on, that opinion has only solidified.
The former foreign secretary steamrollered through the first round of voting by Tory MPs yesterday, picking up a whopping 114 votes.
To put into context how well he has done, second-placed Jeremy Hunt got 43 votes and Michael Gove was third with 37.
Boris is now all but certain to be one of the final two candidates to go through to the vote by Conservative members, which he will also win if opinion poll findings are anything to go by.
What happens then? Well, there is chatter in Westminster that prime minister Johnson will soon come unstuck having promised different things to his Leave and Remain supporters.
That won’t be an issue, however, if he manages to get a deal over the line by the Brexit deadline of October 31. But received wisdom is, that even with a new prime minister in charge of negotiations, nothing will change.
The EU’s position won’t change. The details of the Withdrawal Agreement won’t change. The parliamentary arithmetic needed to vote any deal through the Commons won’t change.
However, I can’t help wonder if a different salesperson could get a similar deal over the line — a Withdrawal Agreement with a few shiny bells on under a different name, if you like.
As one MP put it to me, the deal is a good one — it’s the saleswoman who struggled.
‘David Cameron would have wrapped it up in a few days,’ said the insider.
Mr Johnson — for all his faults — is a charismatic leader with solid Brexiteer credentials and will have a new leader bounce if he gets the top job.
Politics is a funny business.
Even if the facts don’t change, the facts could change.
Remember… poll thing could be rerun in November
THE joke going around among rival candidates depressed about Boris Johnson’s seemingly inevitable path to victory is that they shouldn’t worry… they’ll see each other again in November.
With a fractious Parliament and the government clinging on to a fragile majority, an early election may be inevitable. For some in Westminster the only question is whether it will come in the autumn or the spring.
No telling who May wants in driving seat…
WHEN Theresa May went to vote in the Conservative Party leadership ballot, assembled reporters waiting outside the door asked her who she was going to choose.
‘None of your business,’ she replied.
But it is our business.
What could be more our business than the decision as to who should be prime minister in these critical times?
And don’t we have a right to know who the current premier thinks is up to the job?
After all, she is someone who has spent years negotiating with Brussels and who has sat around the Cabinet table with many of the contenders. This isn’t just a fun sideshow for the Conservative Party — it’s a decision that will affect the lives of millions of people.
That’s also the main reason why all of the candidates should commit to take part in TV debates, so their ideas can be tested in the interests of transparency.
(Are you listening Boris Johnson?)
Happy as Larry… or hounded out
SPARE a thought for Larry the cat. The Downing Street mouser is about to meet his third prime minister, and for a species that likes consistency that could be unsettling. Things could be worse if Boris, who is dating Carrie Symonds, fails to win the leadership contest. Michael Gove or Sajid Javid could enter No.10 — and bring their pet pooches with them.