Is Boris safe in Uxbridge? The Lib Dems have an eye on the Prime Minister's 5000 vote majority and their candidate, Dr Liz Evenden-Kenyon, hopes to dislodge him at the general election. But she needs help. With the support of a new formation, Renew UK, she plans to ‘kick Johnson out of Uxbridge’.
I went to a ‘meet and greet’ outside the tube station at the weekend only to find that the campaigners had packed up half an hour before the event was due to end. Perhaps it’s no surprise they hadn’t taken Uxbridge by storm. A Facebook announcement posted on 8 October had been shared just five times.
My attempts to contact ‘Dr Liz’, (as she styles herself), drew a blank. So I plodded around in the drizzle accosting random strangers. ‘Do you think Boris will win this seat back at the general election?’ To my amazement, I found several who were unaware that Boris was their MP. I rephrased my query. ‘Do you know who the MP here is?’ Again I came across a handful who couldn’t supply the answer. A chap selling TV subscriptions told me that Boris used to be the MP but had taken up a new job. I explained that he now lives in Downing Street. ‘I don’t know if I’d vote for him,’ he said. ‘If he was clearer, and didn’t bullshit us, like he did with the bus, I might. I’d need to look at the policies.’
Of those who were able to name their MP, most predicted that he would retain Uxbridge. Hardly anyone knew of an opposition plot to field a unity candidate against him.
The notion that Uxbridge and South Ruislip is a marginal seat appears exaggerated. Giant-slaying fever may have infected Dr Liz and Boris’s other opponents. His majority of 5034 represents nearly ten per cent of the electorate, so a challenger needs to scoop up all the votes won by the Lib Dems, Ukip and the Greens in 2017 and convert a fair few Tories as well. Central to this scheme is a non-aggression pact between the Lib Dems, Labour and the Greens but no such cross-party alliance exists.
Uxbridge is a microcosm of the present parliament. Unseating the PM relies on the unanimous choice of a single candidate. But the prize is so attractive that a throng of challengers surges forward, all shouting, ‘let me through.’ This confuses and weakens the plot. Perhaps fatally.
Paradoxically, Renew UK are creating the wrong sort of pressure in Uxbridge. The Brexit party, which didn’t exist in 2017, is now in a decisive position. If Nigel Farage chooses not to run a candidate against Boris, the PM is probably safe. But if the Brexit party stands, the Leave vote could split and Boris could lose. So Renew UK’s campaign is likely to harden Boris’s stance on Brexit in order to appease Farage.
One intriguing possibility remains. Boris could win the election but lose his seat. His resignation as prime minster would follow. But would that be the end of his career? A former prime minister is traditionally entitled to an earldom, (a privilege last exercised by Harold Macmillan), and it’s not inconceivable that Earl Johnson of Uxbridge could govern, as the Duke of Wellington did, from the house of lords.