When there are just two options, only Boris can create a third way

It was a nostalgic moment for me when Boris Johnson announced he was all for Brexit this weekend, writes his former PR chief.

Campaigning days: Katie Perrior with Boris Johnson
Campaigning days: Katie Perrior with Boris Johnson

I often got caught up in media scrum moments like this when running his 2008 London mayoral campaign.

Few politicians can command the sort of celebrity attention I witnessed then and now. In short, Boris has just electrified the EU referendum debate.

Back in 2008, people thought Boris was mad to consider becoming Mayor of London (and that we were too for taking him on) but it was a calculated risk, much like this one.

Commentators are saying it’s a gamble – but is it really? The ‘call for Boris’ for PM was only going to happen if the Tories had lost the last general election.

Imagine the scenario: Conservative MPs dropping like flies and those who survived worried they would be next, but it didn’t materialise. Nobody was more shocked at the Cameron majority than Boris himself.

With Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader the threat to the Tories is minimal – there is no need for Boris The Saviour.

There was talk of a Cabinet position after his London term ends in May, but Boris has never been one to wait around on the sidelines or for his fate to be in someone else’s hands.

Politics is all about timing.

By making this move he has brought the action to him – reminding all that you should never write him off.

Plus, he is in good company – my teacher friends hate me when I admit to really liking Michael Gove – between him and Boris you have two highly intelligent people making the argument for Brexit, which until recently was in the space only ‘nutters' occupied.

No wonder Out campaigners are so ecstatic – Boris and Gove are taking their arguments mainstream and in language normal punters can understand.

I’ve already heard industry colleagues say their pro-Remain stance is wavering. Supporters like the impressive Priti Patel can only help matters.

In one masterstroke, a man once considered isolated from his colleagues has managed to provide a reason why at least half could vote for him as a future leader, in addition to putting him on our television screens across the nation on a daily basis.

The Remain campaigners must be fearing that many of the public who say ‘Oh I love Boris’ are likely to be the same people finding themselves agreeing with his rationale for considering the previously unthinkable.

But look closely at what Boris is advocating – he isn’t ruling out future renegotiation even if the UK votes Out.

He is positioning as the man who would get the best deal for Britain where Cameron failed.

Boris straddled the EU fence for weeks deciding on which way to land, only to create a third option.
Vote for Out, the EU will panic and we will get what we want.

It’s just typical of the Boris I know to have his cake and eat it. Time will tell whether the British public likes the taste.

Katie Perrior is director of iNHouse Communications and ran Boris Johnson’s PR during his 2008 and 2012 mayoral election campaigns

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