I will start by saying that I base none of what is to immediately follow on rumours I’ve heard swirling around Westminster, nor some sort of insider’s knowledge regarding what Boris may or may not be planning. I really have no idea what BoJo is thinking or even rumoured heavily to be thinking. I can only speculate on the basis of what is going on around him, what Boris is saying publicly and has said publicly in the past, and the timbre of the age in which we currently find ourselves.
The things that make me think Boris will come out for Remain at some point in the next six months are: it is virtually the only way he can actually become prime minister. I am not saying it is his definite path to becoming prime minister, just to be clear; I liken it to a roll of the dice. If Boris sticks with what he has, it is virtually impossible for him to become PM; roll the dice and it lands a certain way, he’s in with a shout. Again, massive gamble, but if wants to be in Number 10 at some point, he needs to do something new and bold.
He’s also paved the way for it a little. The logic of his current position on Brexit goes: Chequers is terrible because it gives us all the disadvantages of being in the EU without any of the advantages. If Chequers is all there is, we might as well stay in. I also notice how he avoids falling into the “no deal would be a breeze” trap that many of his fellow Leavers on the Tory backbenchers have fallen hook, line and sinker for – intelligently as well, since he can avoid being clipped saying that sort of thing if we do leave with no deal and it is as bad as predicted.
The things that make me think Boris will not come out for Remain at some point in the next six months: no, not his deep seated belief in the power of Brexit, which I don’t believe for a second he has ever possessed. It comes down to one, simple thing. Boris coming out for Remain would be a decisive, cathartic moment in British politics that would blow things open. And we live in an age where this sort of thing is assumed to happen any minute but never, ever actually does. Take the 2017 general election. We assumed the least we’d get out of it was Corbyn and his project being electorally crushed, leading us to at least move on from that whole mess. Instead, the way it played out embedded him even further. We just don’t live in an era where mind-blowing things like Boris Johnson announcing he’s changed his mind on Brexit actually take place; we just live in one in which people like me endlessly speculate that they might possibly happen. Meanwhile what actually happens is pretty much nothing at all. In conclusion, no Boris Johnson is very. very unlikely to announce he suddenly thinks Brexit is a bad idea. It would be pretty amazing if he did though, right?
The only significant impediment to Johnson leading the Conservative Party is the Conservative MPs themselves. If they keep him off the ballot, Johnson cannot become leader or PM, if they let him through, the depleted and increasingly antediluvian membership are likely to go for him.
But I think you are well aware of all this.
Paul W says
Boris coming out for Remain would certainly be “something new and bold” – courageous even – and quite fatal to his hopes of ever becoming Conservative party leader. Boris can risk upsetting 48% of his potential electorate – so to speak – and still win, but not the other 52% as well.
Michael Berridge says
There is one thing we can be quite certain of. Boris Johnson will do whatever is good for Boris Johnson – even flip-flopping if (as Nick suggests) he has weighed up the odds and found them acceptable.