If the Conservatives were Take That then David Cameron would surely be Gary Barlow to Boris Johnson’s Robbie. And now just as Take That saw the upside of bringing their most unpredictable member back in 2010, so too ministers are privately urging Cameron to return Johnson to the fold in a bid to rejuvenate the Conservative election campaign.
Like Robbie, Boris is colourful, populist, inexplicably popular and has enjoyed a successful solo career since leaving the band.
While Labour is bringing its own old boy John Prescott back to ‘bash heads together’, that’s likely to take place backstage and out of the public eye. Giving Boris a role centre stage in the election campaign raises the question of who will be the front man – the dull one who writes the songs or the cheeky dancer all the girls love?
With the resignation of Sir Malcom Rifkind, the party needs some likeable and trustworthy faces and Johnson’s stock is certainly high, with a recent YouGov poll showing three times as many people believe that he is doing a good job than those who do not. Granted this was a London poll, but importantly his appeal crossed party lines, with high approval amongst UKIP voters.
Johnson is poised to return to the Commons in May as MP for the safe Tory seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip and is also likely to campaign in the north of England. A role fronting the election campaign could reap rewards for the party but longer term, if (as predicted) no party takes a majority, then it places Johnson firmly in the spotlight if party leadership is contested.
For those who want to hedge their bets on who might be next in line at the top, it makes sense to root for Boris and have him waiting in the wings ready to take the spotlight, but it will mean that when there is a fight for top billing the scales start to tip more in Johnson’s favour.
However he is used in the election, with his own return to Westminster almost guaranteed, we should be in no doubt that Boris is back for good.
Jane Wilson is MD Corporate Affairs at MHP Communications