Fraser Nelson

Would Brexit mean Boris as PM? If so, should we worry?

Would Brexit mean Boris as PM? If so, should we worry?
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This time last year, Matthew Parris was about the only commentator predicting that the Tories would win a majority. In his Times column today, he says he is now beginning to think that Britain will vote ‘out’ – and he looks at the consequences. Specifically, Cameron’s likely resignation and a summer Tory leadership campaign with Boris Johnson as the favourite.

It all might feel a bit premature, but Matthew Parris is one of the most prescient writers in Britain (as Spectator readers know). If Britain does vote out and Cameron quits, then Boris would be the favourite (see graph, below). And then, gloves would come off. The question always asked about Boris is whether he could withstand a shock-and-awe attack on his character, given the various complications in his love life. What would it look like, if someone were to throw the book at him? So Matthew has decided to do just that. Here's an extract:-

There's a pattern to Boris’s life and it isn’t the lust for office, or for applause, or for susceptible women, that mark out this pattern in red warning ink. It’s the casual dishonesty, the cruelty, the betrayal; and, beneath the betrayal, the emptiness of real ambition: the ambition to do anything useful with office once it is attained.

I will not name two of the women he impregnated, one of whom had an abortion and a miscarriage (she had believed he would marry her); the other bearing his child; and the Court of Appeal judge, refusing a “gagging order” in 2013 to conceal her existence, remarking that the public had a right to know about what he called Johnson’s “reckless” behaviour... If Leave win the coming referendum, as I begin to think they may, a leadership bid by Boris will be imminent.

You might argue that Boris is scandal-proof, and that knowledge of the existence of a love child etc didn’t hurt him in the last Mayoral election. That he is not a moralising politician, and people don't vote for moral role models.And Matthew doesn't give Boris any credit for eight years of rather brilliant government London: he already has more high-level administrative experience than most of his rivals. So surely Boris is road tested, and ready?

But the same argument was made for John Kerry in 2004: he’s been a Senator for yonks, what could enemies throw at him in the campaign? The answer was Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The moral: running for the highest office in the land brings the highest scrutiny in the land. Until a candidate has run for the top job, no one has an idea if he will stand up that scrutiny.

The chances of Brexit? As the below chart shows, still pretty low – according to bookmakers. But like Matthew, I suspect they are rising.

And the runners and riders? Click the below names to see their chances, again according to the betting markets. This suggests that Boris became the favourite once again when he announced for ‘out’ and-  George Osborne is paying the price for his third bungled Budget.