If politics were an Olympic sport, would Boris Johnson get the gold medal? As he welcomes the world to London for a festival of corporatist hypocrisy and athletic achievement, the mayor is in the middle of running his own long-distance race, which he hopes will conclude with Boris crossing the finishing line in Downing Street and ascending the winner's podium on the steps of No 10.
Next stop No 10? For all their forced bonhomie, David Cameron (right) is suspicious of Boris Johnson's prime ministerial ambition (PA)
Ignore any claims made by Johnson that he has no intention or chance of becoming prime minister. In television interviews he now struggles to keep a straight face when he is asked the question. "I have as much chance as being reincarnated as an olive," he said in one. He goes on to quote Michael Heseltine claiming he "can foresee no circumstances" in which he would run for the top job. That was the cynical form of words Hezza used as he waited for the right moment to remove Margaret Thatcher. In reality, Boris is one of the most all-consumingly ambitious men of his generation and his denials are, to borrow his own colourful phrase, an inverted pyramid of piffle.
There are sizeable hurdles in his way, of course. Some Tories and former colleagues are determined that Johnson should never win the race to be Conservative leader. Instead, they would like him to be for the high jump. "Shallow, duplicitous, selfish, sociopathic, scheming," says one usually generous-minded ex-colleague when I mention that I am writing this piece on Boris's prospects. I had asked him to define the man in five words. Another laughs and then comes up with: "Infuriating, lazy, funny, charismatic, brilliant."
But it is no longer only Boris who takes seriously the idea of Boris becoming Tory leader and prime minister. One sensible Tory donor muses: "Perhaps if Cameron does not get his act together we will go for the one with the hair. Boris has something special, he connects with people. He has star power."
A Tory colleague who rates him highly says that he has long thought of Boris's career as having five stages. "We are now on stage three. Stage four involves him being prime minister and in stage five he becomes president of the United States." (He was born in New York, when his father was a student.)
- Boris is Ready for his Finest Hour. Is his Party?
- Is Boris a Churchill or a Lloyd George?
- Keeping The Lights On: the Politics of Cheap Energy
- Let the Soldiers do the Fighting, says the General
- How McJihad Ensnares Young British Muslims
- Don’t let the Keynesians Wreck the Recovery
- Leviathans that lurk in London’s labyrinths
- Doctrine, dialogue and truth
- An Oasis on Oxford Street
- The Night I Witnessed Truth Defeat Falsehood
- My Memory of German History's Proudest Day
- The Rise of UKIP is Labour's Problem Too
- Memo to the PM: show Brussels who's boss
- Scrub up the Scrubs to make prison work
- Deliciously Non-U
- Put British Jihadis on Trial in British Courts
- Muslim Women Deserve Better than Sharia Law
- Wanted: New Guardians of the Democratic Process
- Anthony Blunt: Art, Espionage and Treason
- Never Take Religious Liberty for Granted