The importance of Being Boris
The next four months will be the toughest test yet of the political contradiction that is Boris Johnson.
I have to admit that I find the issue of our membership of the EU as exciting as watching paint dry but I suspect the next four months are going to be fascinating and perhaps even amusing and entertaining.
The decision by Boris (BoGo) Johnson to finally stop playing tedious political games and publicly come out in support of Brexit is a potential game changer. The mood at Number 10 and Number 11 must be pretty grim. Both properties might have new occupants much sooner than was imaginable even a few days ago.
Playing the joker has served Boris well up until now. That all changed yesterday. He must now demonstrate that he is a serious politician who has the strength and character to be our next PM. The danger is that in trying to do so he will try and restrain the populist instincts which have made him our most charismatic politician. Whoever is advising him must never allow him to become dull and ordinary.
The issue about Europe was never really about welfare payments for migrants or emergency breaks. It was always about a gut instinct about whether our future is more secure and prosperous within or outside the EU. The sordid negotiations in Brussels will have appalled many people who voted in May 2015 to end coalition government.
The result of the referendum is impossible to call at this stage. What is certain, however, is that the combination of Michael Gove and Boris Johnson will ensure that the campaign to leave with be intellectually stronger and much more fun than the campaign to remain. This matters with voters.
There are some who fear that the next four months will inflict terrible damage on the Tory Party and government. I have no such fears. The public are not stupid. After four months of being bored rigid by the EU debate they will cast their vote on 23rd June and that will be that.
There has always been a slightly lunatic element of the Tory Party. They will be released into the community for the next four months and then hopefully returned safely to Matron!
That is not to say that there won't be winners and losers. If we vote to stay in the EU the careers of Boris and his fellow outers will be pushed into the political long grass until the PM stands down in 2018 or 2019. If we vote to leave the EU the political careers of the PM and his Chancellor will be immeasurably shortened. Boris will then be the hero of the hour and perfectly placed to realise his ambition of becoming PM. Politics is always full of surprises.
So the next four months are not just about our future role in the EU. They are also a massive test of the political contradiction that is Boris Johnson. No doubt as he relaxes at home listening to Strauss' 'A Hero's Life' he will be pondering where his future lies. PM or a political outcast? I suspect he has cause for optimism ...