As ministers roll into No10 in front of the cameras, reporters have noticed the absence of one Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. It turns out that the Prime Minister has convened a meeting of the normal Cabinet, rather than a ‘political Cabinet.’ A minor distinction, but it does mean no Boris Johnson – who is a member of the latter organisation, but not the former. Now, of course, you can argue that it takes a normal Cabinet to approve the deal on behalf of the government. But friends of Boris had been hoping for a political Cabinet, at which everyone would say their piece, followed by a rubber stamp at the Cabinet. And that way, Boris could seen as part of the team.
Of course, if the Mayor was expected to declare David Cameron’s deal to be a triumph worthy of endorsement in a referendum, it would rather suit the Prime Minister to have him saying so on the way out of No10. My hunch is that Cameron had another image in mind: that of Michael Heseltine coming out of No10 and announcing that he’d run against Thatcher. And that is a drama that Cameron would not want to re-enact today.
Because, make no mistake: if Boris does decide to come out against the EU (and it’s still an ‘if’ at this stage) then he will be running for leader – in the expectation that a ‘leave’ vote would mean curtains for both Cameron and George Osborne. Ah the games, the games.