Friday, 12 August 2016

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson did not contest the Conservative leadership election. Boris Johnson has been appointed Foreign Secretary. These are two surprising events. Perhaps they are related?

As we all know, Gove knifed Johnson. That Friday morning, Johnson's assessment of his chances was markedly reduced. But how low were they really? Worse than Andrea Leadsom's? Surely not. And should he make it to the final two, who knows how the party in the country would vote? But let's say that Johnson goes from thinking he was going to win to thinking he was going to lose. This all happened pretty quickly to some tired people and plenty of emotions were involved.

So Johnson thinks he's going to lose. But why shouldn't he try to extract as much value from his candidacy as possible? From his point of view on that Friday morning, a deal whereby (a) he gets the second best job in Government plus (b) Gove gets cast into the outer darkness would be a pretty tempting one.

And now let's look at it from May's point of view. Less emotional, less shocked perhaps. But Johnson is still a real threat. Remember that Leadsom was a real threat - and Johnson has at least ten times her X factor. From May's point of view, taking Johnson out with a promise of a good job looks like a good deal. And if Johnson wants to punish Gove? That's fine too.

So there's scope for a deal to produce precisely the (surprising) outcome that in fact happened. Did such a deal happen? I have no evidence, but it fits the facts.

There's one other thing. Let's say either Johnson doesn't fancy actually doing the Brexit negotiations, or that May reckons he shouldn't do them. Either way, a deal whereby he gets to be Foreign Secretary without responsibility for Brexit is unsurprising.

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