REGULAR POLITICAL observers will have spotted the irony of Boris Johnson being bundled into a waiting car this week by his minder Nigel Adams, the Selby and Ainsty MP, as the one-time journalist, so fond of asking questions, once again declined to answer any about his political record.
The former Foreign Secretary’s reticence is due to his team calculating that silence, with the exception of his lucrative £275,000-a-year Daily Telegraph column and occasional interview, reduces the risk of further gaffes.
It is not a strategy to inspire confidence as Mr Johnson prepares to launch his campaign. And, while his primary audience will be those Tory MPs and activists who will select Britain’s next PM, a genuine leader will also confront their defects.
First, people need to be reassured that Mr Johnson – who resigned last summer – has spent the intervening period formulating a plan for power after Tory grandee William Hague suggested that some candidates had not done so. Winging it will not bring about stable government.
Next, Mr Johnson needs to explain how it will be legally possible to withhold £39bn – the terms of the UK’s divorce deal with the EU – without breaking the trust of international partners.
Then, his promise of tax-cuts for the well-off. How does this £10bn a year policy square with Mr Johnson’s avowed One Nation conservatism and promises – via Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry – to empower regional economies in the wake of this week’s Power Up The North campaign?
Many people here also have doubts about his character from foreign policy misjudgments to his work ethic and complicated private life which could easily embarrass the country. Answers need to be convincing.
And then there is the most crucial question of all – why does Boris Johnson think he is the best person to unify the country when he has proved so divisive? Only straight answers, with no bluster or mischievous promises that he has no intention of honouring, will suffice if Mr Johnson is to meet the high standards of integrity that Britain has always expected of its potential prime ministers.