What could Johnson do for Labour? So much public anger is focused on Brown that his removal would drain a considerable amount of the poison away. Second, Johnson, who has clean hands on expenses, could come up with a whole raft of radical constitutional proposals—from PR to fixed term parliaments—that the Conservatives would oppose for both principled and self-interested reasons. This, though, would risk leaving Cameron looking like the defender of the discredited status quo. Johnson with his background and light touch is also perfectly placed to take advantage of the revival of the Tory toff stereotype caused by all these stories about moats, swimming pools, gardeners and the like.
To my mind, Johnson is at this moment a better bet for Labour than Brown. But the Tories can take heart from his vulnerabilities. First, Johnson doesn’t come across nearly as well as the Westminster Village thinks he does. Second, he lacks gravitas and has compounded that problem by saying he isn’t up to the job. Given the state of the economy, the public might quickly decide Johnson was right, that he isn't up to being PM. Finally, if anger grows at how the public sector is escaping the worst of the recession, then the deal Johnson cut with the unions on pensions could come back to bite him.