If the Tories did want to really fight Douglas Carswell in the Clacton by-election, then Boris Johnson would have been a jolly good way of driving a steamroller over Ukip’s chances of doing well. James explained at the weekend that when David Cameron reached the same conclusion and put the feelers out to the Mayor, word came back that Johnson felt Clacton was too far away.
But today Johnson suggested that those feelers weren’t particularly robust ones. He told the World at One that he had ‘no serious approach’ to ask him to stand as the Conservative candidate:
‘Do you know what, what I always do with this one, Martha, is I explain that I do not go into the conversations that I have with my friends and colleagues in government, that general defence has served me very well, but I’ll answer you and I’ll say that generally speaking I had no serious, I had no serious approach to doing it because I don’t think that people think it would be the right thing to do given I’ve gone in for Uxbridge.’
If this is correct, then why didn’t Cameron really try to persuade Boris to stand in the seat? He is the leader of the party that the Mayor wants to join in Parliament: he should make use of Boris as the anti-Farage.
The date of the by-election is the Prime Minister’s birthday, 9 October. While the Conservatives told anyone who would listen last week that they would fight the by-election ‘vigorously’, the Mail on Sunday‘s weekend poll means it’s unlikely that the whole Team 2015 spectacle that CCHQ rolled out for Newark will pitch up in the constituency.