A YouGov poll has identified London Mayor Boris Johnson as the favourite for Conservative party leadership.
After last week's announcement that he intends to stand for Parliament in 2015 while continuing to occupy the Mayoral office, the poll (PDF) found 34% of people want Johnson to succeed David Cameron, with 19% backing home secretary Theresa May.
Boris Johnson has in the past repeatedly denied the prospect of returning as an MP or challenging Cameron for party leadership, but since he's gone back on the former it wouldn't be too much of a surprise to see a volte-face on the latter. His intention to combine the roles of MP and Mayor of London has sparked debate about how the capital (and Johnson for that matter) would cope with a part-time mayor. While he does have an army of deputies and advisors at City Hall, critics say he's putting a shot at the Tory leadership ahead of the interests of London.
So what happens if Johnson does win his seat? Although David Cameron has said he wants Johnson in the Cabinet if the Conservatives win the next election, the Mayor has said he won't be a minister until after his term at City Hall ends in 2016. If the Tories lose, Cameron is likely to step down as leader, opening the way for Johnson to take over. According to the Guardian, a Mail on Sunday report also claims Tory MPs would want to replace Cameron with Johnson if the Tories enter into another coalition with the Lib Dems — and most polls have apparently predicted that the Tories will fall short of an overall majority. Given the well-documented antipathy between Johnson and Liberal leader Nick Clegg, we can't see that particular working relationship being anything other than fraught.
Despite the frenzied speculation on Boris Johnson's not-so-secret plans, the New Statesmen reported that he might not be able to deliver a majority to the Tories after all, with the Conservatives' share increasing by just 1% with Johnson as leader.
Photo by Andy Thornley in the Londonist Flickr pool.