Chris Moncrieff: Are they really shrinking away from Boris fight?

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WESTMINSTER – even when it’s supposed to be on holiday – is still abuzz with Boris Johnson ballyhoo.

Will he, if he manages to get into Parliament at the next general election, be the man to seize the reins from David Cameron and, assuming the Tories win that election, lead Britain out of the European Union?

He seems to have everything going for him. He is a hugely popular figure and an outstanding character in a sea of dull parliamentarians. You get the impression that all those supposedly tough-nut Eurocrats in Brussels would shrink away, quaking in their boots at the prospect of a confrontation with our Boris.

But is this really the case? It has to be said Boris did not put up much of a fight when the London Underground train drivers demanded large, indeed outrageous, sums of money for working during the Olympic Games. And remember when he was editor of The Spectator magazine, he promised the then owner that he would not enter Parliament while in that job – a promise which was not kept.

In addition, if Cameron wins the forthcoming election with an overall Tory majority, there’d be no reason for him to stand down. It would be different if he lost the election, but how would Boris feel about the prospect of being Leader of the Opposition at the start of a five-year Parliament?

And while Boris’s name and photograph are emblazoned across the front pages of all the newspapers, let us not forget some of the other possible candidates. Philip Hammond, the highly efficient and wise Foreign Secretary, is the true dark horse.

Keep an eye open for him.

STILL on the theme of Boris Johnson, you will have noticed how he trades on his bumbling, crumpled look, with the ‘haystack’ on top of his head. He is a gift for cartoonists – and he knows it and revels in it.

But have you also noticed how, whenever he removes his cycling helmet, he invariably puts his hands through his thatch, tousling it up, ensuring it looks suitably untidy.

This is a kind of reverse vanity, not unlike fashion models getting themselves ready before they appear on the catwalk.

IT is to be hoped that the sudden and unmourned resignation from the Government of Baroness Warsi will have taught the Prime Minister a few short, sharp lessons.

She resigned as a Foreign Office Minister earlier this month, protesting that the Government’s policy on the Israel-Gaza crisis was “morally indefensible”. And she has fiercely denied that her resignation will lead to “kiss and tell” revelations – she was well-known as a furious note-taker at ministerial meetings.

However, the fault for all of this really lies at the door of David Cameron, who seems over-eager to make his Government “inclusive” at the expense of quality. It is now widely believed that Cameron plucked Warsi out of obscurity, made her a peeress and gave her a job on the grounds that she was a woman, that she was a member of an ethnic minority, that she was a Muslim and that she came from “up north”, having been brought up in Dewsbury. In short, to use the cliché of the day, she ticked all of Cameron’s boxes. But it never appeared to cross his mind to ask whether she was actually up to the job – which she was not.

What all this adds up to is that in future the Prime Minister should choose his ministers on the grounds of whether they have the ability to do the job, and not for fashionable reasons of political correctness.

BEING a politician used to be regarded as a vocation rather than a job. But all that now seems to have changed. We now get the impression – rightly or wrongly – that some of our legislators, both in the Commons and the Lords, spend much of their time grubbing around for more money and perks. I see some members of the House of Lords are now seeking up to £4,000 a month in allowances for simply turning up.

Years ago, the late Robin Cook, when he was leader of the Commons, promised that legislation would be passed to weed out wrongdoers in the House of Lords and banish them from office. Nothing ever happened.

WHEN it comes to whispering campaigns, the Liberal Democrats have no equals. I see such a campaign is now reportedly being mounted about Vince Cable, the grumpy Business Secretary, saying that he is on the brink of walking out of the coalition.

Cable has vociferously denied there is any truth in this allegation. But I do remember, not all that many years ago, Charles Kennedy being removed from the leadership of the party after a disgraceful smear campaign against him.

The Liberal Democrats, whatever the truth is about the Vince Cable affair, certainly have form here.