It was Harold Wilson, Britain’s Labour Prime Minister who oversaw the passage of the last UK referendum on Europe (the EEC as it was known back then) in 1975, who famously said, “A week in politics is a long time.”
Wilson’s adage perfectly describes the past seven days for Boris Johnson.
A week ago, as the UK voted to exit the EU, Johnson was on top of the world as the leader of the Leave campaign. David Cameron resigned and Johnson was practically packing his bags for 10 Downing Street.
Today, Johnson announced he will not seek the Tory leadership. It had appeared that Justice Secretary Michael Gove, who campaigned side by side with Johnson, had reached a deal to support Johnson’s leadership bid. But Gove did an about face and announced he did not have confidence in Johnson and would run himself.
Gove is one of five Tories seeking to succeed Cameron. The others are Home Secretary Theresa May, Work & Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb of Wales, Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom and ex-Defense Secretary Liam Fox. I must say that I am surprised that Chancellor of The Exchequer George Osborne isn’t among them as he was often touted as a successor to Cameron, but given his vocal support for Remain his candidacy probably isn’t viable at this point.
As such, Gove and May are expected to be the top two finishers. While Gove was a prominent Leave voice, May supported Remain but was low key in her support. Although I think Gove is the best conservative thinker Britain has, I suspect there are many allies of Johnson who are angry at the manner in which Gove went about seeking the leadership. In which case, I would have to say May would be the favorite. However, I am keeping a close eye on the youthful Crabb. At 43, he doesn’t have the baggage Gove and May have and could be the dark horse in this race. The Tories will determine their new leader and next Prime Minister on September 9th.
As for Boris Johnson, all he can do is write his column, make some money and bide his time.