What is Boris Johnson up to?

So what was all that about? Boris Johnson’s mini-insurrection started with an incendiary Brexit manifesto, and ended with a less-than-comfortable transatlantic flight home alongside the woman whose job he appeared to be coveting. 

He marched himself to the top of the hill, only to march himself back down again, muttering scarcely credible pledges of loyalty. 

Among the endless explanations, two stand out. First of all, Boris still fancies his chances at the top job, despite every past attempted ascent ending in failure. But he knows he’s running out of time, as rank and file Tories increasingly look to the next generation for Theresa May’s replacement.  

He knows further delay drags him further towards becoming yesterday’s man. So he lobs a grenade at the Prime Minister, to see if he can shake her loose, knowing she’s too weak to sack him anyway. 

Alternatively, Boris, the lifelong maverick, has accepted he’ll never be Prime Minister. Bored at the Foreign Office, he contrives an act of disloyalty designed to force Theresa May to fire him, or perhaps demote him, allowing him to flounce out of the Cabinet. Then, from the backbenches he can lob more grenades as Brexit talks get bogged down, and hope the next Tory leader might just bring him back. 

Either scenario presents problems for him. Boris has always been more popular with rank and file Tories than the party’s MPs, many of whom don’t trust him and some of whom can’t stand him. An increasing number are furious at his actions over the past week, which they see as making a bad situation even worse. 

Some suggest Boris fears Brexit will taint everyone in government with the stench of failure. But his younger rivals have less to worry about. Theresa May hasn’t done a great job so far of promoting new talent to significant roles — and that means they won’t be tainted either. 

Ultimately, trying to second guess Boris Johnson has always been a frustrating occupation. Generally, Boris does whatever he thinks is best for Boris, regardless of the consequences. 

 

There’s more on Boris Johnson’s never-ending ambitions in the latest episode of the Party Games podcast...