So we finally have a date – 23rd June 2016. That's when Britain will decide for the first time in almost three generations whether it wants stay in or leave the European Union. Thus, it’s also the date that Britain will decide who it wants to become its next Prime Minister – George Osborne or Boris Johnson.
This may seem like a nonsensical suggestion. Yet, by choosing to support the ‘Out’ campaign, following months of deliberation, Boris has made a very clever political decision, one that may indeed lead him to the door of Number 10, and perhaps sooner rather than later. Whether Boris' decision was based on political factors or well-founded principles is largely inconsequential, despite Johnson having said earlier this year that he’s “not an outer”. Either way, the London Mayor has exponentially increased his chance of becoming Prime Minister – as long as he has picked the right horse.
David Cameron has never had an easy relationship with the Conservative backbench. Many backbenchers have never respected his modernisation agenda, particularly on same sex marriage, and a large proportion of MPs doubted whether Cameron could ever win an outright majority. The BBC reports that 122 Conservative MPs have declared their intention to campaign against the Prime Minister on the EU, including senior cabinet ministers such as Chris Grayling and Michael Gove. Cameron's troubles are made even worse by a poll for Conservative Home which shows that a whopping 71% of all Tory members back ‘Out’. Thus, taking this opposition to Cameron into account, it is surely not ludicrous to suggest that Boris could actually topple his old Eton chum before the end of 2016.
Indeed, let’s imagine that Britain votes to leave the European Union. David Cameron has stated that if he loses the referendum he will remain as Prime Minister. This may be wishful thinking from Cameron, who would surely be humiliated by such a result. Cameron’s EU deal will have been rejected by the nation and his credibility as party leader will be distant memory. Many of Cameron’s enemies will surely take this opportunity to get rid of their humiliated, broken leader.
Moreover, the fact that Osborne and May both backed ‘In’ and lost would have weakened them to almost the same extent as Cameron amongst MPs and members. Consequently, the next leader would surely be one of the senior ministers who backed in. Michael Gove, who has backed Brexit, is one of the most intelligent and eloquent frontbench MPs. However he's also a deeply controversial figure who passed a series of unpopular reforms as Education Secretary. Ian Duncan Smith has already led the Conservatives and was such a disaster that he didn't even make it to an election before being pressured into resignation. Chris Grayling's only name recognition comes only from those in the legal profession, but he shouldn't be too thrilled with this as most lawyers hold him in contempt. Priti Patel will have her moment of greatness one day and she certainly has potential but she's not been in Parliament long enough to mount a serious challenge.
Boris would be the only one. He has a charming, infectious personality that means he is well-liked amongst the general public. If he stands for the leadership he will win – propelled by widespread popular support for both his personal credentials and his position on the EU. This referendum will decide David Cameron's future. The Prime Minister is now staring down the barrel of a shotgun, held by a blonde Bullingdon buddy. Boris just needs the permission of the public to pull the trigger.