Turning into Westminster Hall this evening, Guido fell in behind half a dozen big, broad-backed, black-suited men walking through the gloom. This was the Executive of the 1922 Committee. They had the form and figure of gangland bosses, men who ran the racket.
The Reservoir Dogs mounted the steps at the end and paused. The biggest dog said, “We’re a little early.” They stood where they stopped under the stained glass of St Stephen. It would have been possible to loiter and eavesdrop. Report their secrets, their plans. But remembering what happened to Mr Brown, Mr Blonde and Mr Blue (the 22 Executive is as pitiless as it is ruthless) Guido walked down to the waiting media.
Graham Brady, the chairman of the board, is a discreet man. So discreet that it was impossible to hear him unless you were crouched underneath with a microphone and a headset. A nearby journalist revealed Brady’s secret – that each Tory candidate for leader would need 100 nominations to run, and by Monday 2pm.
A third of the party’s MPs. Signed up. The organisation needed to do that is considerable. Not many candidates can summon 100 MPs over the weekend. Can Boris, even with his talent for organisation?
But even more important, would he want to?
In Boris’ world, disaster is an opportunity for further disasters so it is worth going through those, as he must be himself – even as you are reading these words.
First: Can he afford it? A house in Herne Hill is going to cost in the modest millions. That is a bagatelle to a man making £150,000 for an after-dinner speech (they get the dinner free, you know) but it is an impossible burden for a man making £150,000 a year (and paying for his own dinner).
Second: He still has a Partygate investigation hanging over him and the Privileges Committee is yet to sit in judgment on the case. That committee is chaired by Chris Bryant whose answer to the question, “Did he torture him and cut off his ear?” is: “Is he a Tory?”
Third: If he got the nominations (pretty likely) and ravished the membership (even more likely), would he be the unity candidate the party needs (unlikely)? If he and the party struggled in the polls, watch all the old fissures and fractures open up again, like horrible, medieval wounds.
And in the wider sense, is Cakery enough to win in a recession, a cost of living crisis, a declining economy? Let Them Eat Cakery has its limitations.
So, will Boris run? It’ll be a brave man who says he will or he won’t. Nothing is predictable anymore.