As the votes are counted across London today, it looks more and more likely that Boris Johnson is about to be re-elected Mayor for a second term.
If he can pull it off, it will be testament to the somewhat Teflon attribute that Mr Johnson has displayed recently. The last six weeks for the Conservative Party have been the most challenging since it came into government two years ago. For the first time the Liberal Democrats are not bearing the brunt of the vitriol (when was the last time we saw Nick Clegg by the way?). Instead, the criticism is being lobbed squarely into the Conservative camp and, specifically at the feet of its high command. Approval ratings are in the doldrums and Labour appear in the ascendency.
And yet Boris Johnson, through nothing much more than the sheer force of his personality, has soared above the haemorrhaging of council seats and the dire poll numbers and looks about to deliver defeat to Labour in London. Granted, as a candidate Ken Livingston is not without his own baggage, but it would still be an impressive result for the Mayor.
MHP’s latest infographic pokes a sharp stick at the wasps nest of speculators that wonder aloud whether Mr Johnson’s popularity is in fact bad news for the Prime Minister. His victory today will only be considered good news by No.10, not least because David Cameron can breathe easy that his old rival will be busy at City Hall for the next four years before entertaining any thoughts of re-entering the Commons (as long as he serves out his full term of course). But more importantly because Boris holding on to London represents a shining white light amidst the current Tory gloom.
But in the long term, should the PM really be up at night worrying that Boris Johnson is leadership material? Let’s be honest, probably not. While it’s entertaining to imagine Mr Johnson bustling around No.10, perhaps offending various world leaders at G8 summits or mistaking a cleaning cupboard for COBRA, the reality is that David Cameron is going nowhere for some years yet.
By the time he does eventually stand down as leader, whether it be by force or by his own volition – and who can name a Prime Minister in the last century who really left under his or her own terms – some new buck will be on the scene. Few would have marked out Mr Cameron for leader two years before his ascendency, let alone five. The same goes for Ed Miliband and, to some extent, for Tony Blair as well. As disappointing as it may be to the wasps nest, the next Tory leader is probably a little known junior minister or 2010 backbencher.
And before people start crowing about Grant Shapps or Liz Truss, it probably won’t be them either. The smart money’s on the one that no one’s heard of yet.