What are Boris Johnson's real chances of becoming Tory leader? I examine the Mayor of London's standing with Conservative MPs in my Telegraph column today - and it is fascinating how polarised opinion is about the Mayor in the Tory party. His supporters insist he is the only hope for the Conservative party, while those who don't want him to lead really, really don't want him to lead and display a fair bit of personal hatred when talking about the Mayor. But the problem that those in the anti-Boris camp have is that they can't see who else from the current group of well-known leadership hopefuls would enjoy the same sort of cut-through.
As for when he might come in, my sources among those who are actively promoting Boris in the Commons are adamant that this is about 'post-Dave'. But when does 'post-Dave' happen? Here is one intriguing possibility that has been suggested to me.
David Cameron has told Graham Brady, the 1922 Committee chairman, that Conservative MPs will be able to vote on another Coalition. But what hasn't been promised at any time has been a secret ballot. Read back through ConHome's interview with Brady, and you'll see that he refuses to go into details about the 'protocol' for the consent that backbenchers will be able to give. I understand that this is because the Prime Minister has so far refused to offer MPs a secret ballot.
But Tory MPs say they won't weather this if faced with another Con-Lib deal in 2015, and will vote in the 1922 Committee (via secret ballot) to force the Prime Minister to let them approve a new Coalition via secret ballot. One says:
'If Dave thinks he's going to pull that off again, he'll see that he can't mess with us. We'll force him to hold a secret ballot and there are ministers, especially those from the 2010 intake who will vote in a secret ballot against a coalition and insist on minority government with another general election in 12-18 months' time.'
That ministers would vote against coalition in a secret ballot is something James revealed in his politics column recently. At the same time as this vote, plotters would almost certainly send in enough letters to Brady to trigger a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister. So even if MPs did approve a new Coalition, they might insist on a new leader.