A Johnson will play a key role in the 2015 General Election but it won’t be Boris.
Following the London Mayor’s long-suspected announcement that he intends to run in the General Election 2015, parts of the media exploded with joy and expectation. With the PM saying that he always wanted “his best players on the pitch”, Boris was quickly being hailed as a powerful weapon to be deployed against UKIP.
However, we must be wary of believing hype. It’s difficult to believe that one man has the potential to swing an election, especially when he isn’t even one of the party leaders. Boris will be useful on the doorstep of marginal seats and will certainly play a larger role in the campaign that your average prospective candidate, but he is not the Johnson who has the power to change the game.
It’s up to Boris how he speaks to the electorate on the campaign trail… but it’s his brother who will decide what it is he’s saying.
Following the 2010 General Election, the new intake of Conservative MPs were invited in batches to Number 10 for drinks. As the new Prime Minister was swamped in the corner by ambitious newcomers, the other guests took the opportunity to get to know their new colleagues. At one point at the party, an MP was tapped on the shoulder and was introduced to a new colleague by a member of CCHQ’s Treasurer team, “please meet Jo Johnson, Boris’s brother.” The newly-elected representative for Orpington wrinkled his nose at the introduction and said, “Well, I’m also now an MP.”
Jo Johnson is the youngest of the Johnson clan. After following in his brother’s footsteps through Eton and Oxford, his career before politics reflected his intellect: after a brief time in investment banking, Johnson joined the Financial Times and quickly rose to become an Associate Editor and run the paper’s influential Lex Column.
As his brother won a second term to run London, Johnson was proving himself in the bear pit that is the Public Accounts Committee, as he helped scrutinise government spending whilst himself spending nine months as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to a BIS Minister. Being a member of both a select committee and to be appointed a PPS simultaneously is very rare and speaks volumes about Johnson’s energy and capability.
In April 2013, the Prime Minister made Johnson a cabinet office minister and with the promotion, handed him the keys to the newly-founded Number 10 Policy Unit. With Oliver Letwin, it is Johnson’s job to bring together a manifesto to convince the electorate that the Conservatives deserve another term.
Johnson’s role in the process has been to collect policy ideas from across the party and crunch them into a draft for Cameron and Osborne to review. As a number 10 source told Cicero Elections, “He must have about 700 ideas collected on his laptop”, and he has the editor’s scissors in his hand.
The vast majority of the coverage around Boris’s announcement is noise. Ultimately when voters decide who to vote for, few are going to tick the box if they don’t believe that the next Government will improve the quality of their lives. The party manifesto, on the other hand, will dictate every aspect of the election campaign, from what the Prime Minister argues during televised leader debates to what grassroots campaigners say on the doorstep.
To put it another way, it’s up to Boris how he speaks to the electorate on the campaign trail, but it’s his brother who will decide what it is he’s saying.