Boris’s Tory leadership chances: the lesson of Patrick Gordon Walker

boris and cameronA typically colourful quote from Mayor of London Boris Johnson on any ambition he might harbour one day to occupy Number 10:

“I would like to be the lead singer of an international rock group. That was my aim, or a good guitarist. I would love to have been a world-famous painter or a composer. There are many things that I would like to have been able to do. … Obviously, if the ball came loose from the back of a scrum – which it won’t – it would be a great, great thing to have a crack at. But it’s not going to happen.”

Yet he remains the bookies’ favourite, according to The Spectator’s daily tracker:

    Next Tory leader chances, as implied by bookies: Boris Johnson 19%, Theresa May 16%, Michael Gove 11%, Philip Hammond 9%, George Osborne 9%, William Hague 8%, David Davis 6%, Grant Shapps 5%.

The biggest stumbling block to Boris becoming Tory leader is the obvious one: he’s not an MP. But there is continuing speculation about a possible route — for example, from political journalist Gaby Hinsliff:

A by-election to create a vacancy for Boris — is it plausible? Well, never rule anything out. But the voters tend not to like being taken for granted. That’s a lesson that Patrick Gordon Walker learned the hard way in the 1965 Leyton by-election…

Patrick Gordon Walker was the Labour MP defeated in 1964 in the infamous Smethwick campaign (which featured the slogan, “If you want a nigger neighbour, vote Labour”). Harold Wilson appointed Gordon Walker to the foreign office anyway. Labour’s Reginald Sorensen was moved upstairs to the Lords to create a safe seat for Gordon Walker to occupy. But Leyton’s voters had other ideas: it was gained by the Tories by 205 votes in January 1965. Patrick Gordon Walker was forced to resign from office.

However, he did return to power: the seat reverted to Labour at the 1966 general election. So if Boris is to take a tilt at the Tory leadership, the safe route would be to find a London seat ready for the 2015 general election. To risk a by-election is to chance humiliation. And Boris may be a fool, but he’s not stupid.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

Read more by or more about , , , or .
This entry was posted in News.


  • Tom Papworth 19th Mar '13 - 11:05pm

    And, to be fair to theTories, my understanding is that he was treated as a pariah in parliament.

    On the issue of a by-election, how safe was Layton at the time? The last rumour I heard was that room would be made for Boris in South Croydon. Hardly a big risk there, I’d suggest.

  • ” The last rumour I heard was that room would be made for Boris in South Croydon. Hardly a big risk there, I’d suggest”

    I wouldn’t have thought that Croydon was Boris’ style – surely he would be lined up for a seat like Kensington? Current MP Malcolm Rifkind must surely be thinking about retiring at some point soon and could be guaranteed elevation to the Lords. I heard rumours too that the seat of Reigate was being line dup for Boris?

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Helen Dudden
    If a seat can be bought in the House of Lords, where is the value of that seat? I've been to Westminster on several occasions and always been checked on the...
  • David Evans
    Jeff, you say "Perhaps not, but it is unreasonable to [seek a pay increase that compensates for the effect of inflation] and retain absurdly archaic working pra...
  • Chris Moore
    @Peter Martin: An economically and mathematically challenged individual might conclude from your intervention that UK GDP per capita was higher in 2007 - 50k...
  • John Medway
    Thanks all for your comments. @William Francis - Yes, although GDP isn't in my view "almost everything", it still has its uses. A precipitate fall in GDP wou...
  • expats
    ......Johnson and Shapps pretend they can’t end the rail strikes..That’s nonsense.. Well our own Munira Wilson seems to have her own ideas (unless she is...