Flop of the Month (February 2016): Boris Johnson's backing of Brexit backfires

Will he or won't he? It was the big question in the minds of the 'leave' and 'remain' camps as they pondered which side the big beast of the Conservative Party would throw his weight behind.

Boris Johnson speaks up over the EU deal. Credit: PA / PA Wire/Press Association Images
Boris Johnson speaks up over the EU deal. Credit: PA / PA Wire/Press Association Images

It was meant to be Boris Johnson’s big moment – a springboard for his ambition to lead the party, where his place in the media spotlight would be assured after his tenure as Mayor of London ends.

Political rivals were meant to quiver at the sight of Johnson making the case for Brexit. But none of this has come to pass.

Brand Boris, once imbued with an aura of authenticity, was suddenly tainted with the grubby stain of opportunism as commentators from all sides of the spectrum criticised him for putting his personal ambitions above the good of the country.

The Prime Minister twisted the knife  when he emphasised in Parliament that he had no agenda other than the UK’s best interests and would not be standing for re-election.

Johnson, with a face like thunder  and surrounded by back-bench supporters, gave the unedifying impression of a castigated playground bully being egged on to be even more disobedient.

But what of the Boris effect on voter intentions? A Times poll two days after he declared showed both camps running neck-and-neck while, in early February, a YouGov poll saw ‘leave’ ahead by nine points.

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