Boris Johnson hints at Conservative leadership vacancy from 2018

Boris Johnson has raised the prospect there will be a vacancy for leader of the Conservatives in late 2018, after being pressed yet again on his ambitions to head the party.

The London mayor and Uxbridge MP said there would be a “new generation of Tory thrusters” who would be vying for the leadership at that point but went on to hint that he could still be young enough to stand, given that Winston Churchill was 65 when he became prime minister.

David Cameron said during the election campaign that he would not serve a third term but since then several anonymous Tory MPs have been pressing for him to go back on this plan.

He has long been rumoured to be planning to depart towards the end of this parliament to give any successor the chance to bed in before the 2020 election. The leading candidates to take over from him are George Osborne, the chancellor, Johnson, and Theresa May, the home secretary.

Johnson, who has been pressed for years about his ambitions to be prime minister, was asked again in an interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel. “Thankfully, there’s not going to be a vacancy until late 2018, if not later,” he said. “By that stage, you know, a new generation of Tory thrusters will be sprouting like dragons’ teeth. So the torch has been passed. Mind you, Churchill was 65 when he became prime minister.”

In the wide-ranging interview, Johnson also addressed the issue of Europe again, saying leaving was not the only option but also not the end of the world if Britain did go. “I’m going to see what kind of reforms we can achieve,” he said. “The stakes are not as high as they were in 1975, when Britain joined the club.

“Geopolitics have changed. The relative size of the European Union market is declining. It’s not as crucial to our future as it was 40 years ago. My ideal world is, we’re there, we’re in the EU, trying to make it better. We don’t need the European Union to tell us how many hours we can work, we don’t need all this health and safety stuff. Brussels should get back to the great principle of Cassis de Dijon – mutual recognition, not harmonisation. I hope our German friends will take us very seriously during this reform process.”

Powered by article was written by Rowena Mason Political correspondent, for on Thursday 13th August 2015 14.12 Europe/ © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010