A scoop in the Mail on Sunday: Zac Goldsmith has allegedly told Boris Johnson that if he were to resign over a third runway at Heathrow, then he would encourage Boris to stand in the subsequent by-election (which everyone assumes that the Conservatives would win). Johnson’s aides have rejected the story ‘out-of-hand’, but it has inspired fevered speculation on Twitter, especially among those who dream that Boris is the answer to their electoral prayers. Those voices have also been given air by the revelation that Bob Stewart MP was approached earlier in the summer by a couple of backbenchers to run as a stalking horse against David Cameron.
This prompts the question: if Stewart was to be the stalking horse, who then hopes to be the real contender? The answer to that question is not clear; but the fact that it is being entertained adds to the sense that some Conservatives are planning for the post-Cameron era, rooted in the assumption that the party will be defeated heavily in 2015.
The manoeuvres are beginning, both within and without government if rumours about some cabinet ministers are to be believed. This will make for good sport and increase the likelihood of defeat in 2015, as the public always punishes fractious, self-absorbed parties regardless of the economic situation. For all the cliched talk of ‘lessons learned’ and the ‘desire to win’, the book never quite closed on the Tories’ troubles between 1994 and 2005.