For a long time George Osborne was more likely to be found taking snipes at his one-time political rival Boris Johnson than supporting his political efforts. In 2016, the former chancellor mocked Johnson by saying that were he to go for the party leadership he would not ‘fumble the ball’ – a thinly-veiled attack on Johnson’s botched leadership campaign in the 2016 contest. Only just like 2019 Johnson, 2019 Osborne is a rather different figure.
Now editor of the Evening Standard, Osborne has used the paper’s leading article today to endorse Boris Johnson. With MPs voting for a final time today on which two candidates will go to the members’ vote, the editorial says Boris ‘has the best shot at giving Britain the three things it desperately needs from the next occupant of Number 10’:
‘If Mr Johnson governs as the “modern Conservative” he promises to be today he can put his party, and country back on track.
That’s why we believe if there’s one of these candidates who can give Britain back its mojo, it’s BoJo.’
Only Mr S isn’t so sure that the article will make entirely pleasant reading for the Johnson campaign. On Brexit, the Standard concludes that Johnson does not see the UK leaving the EU by the end of October as a red line after all. What’s more, the paper suggests that Johnson is in part the right person to lead because he would be the best at selling some form of Theresa May’s beleaguered Brexit deal:
‘Ask yourself which of these potential Prime Ministers is most likely to persuade the Conservative Party to vote for a repacked version of the existing deal? The one with the greatest credibility with hard Brexiteers.’
Not the best line to be used at the membership hustings…