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Boris takes advantage of Olympics popularity to go on credibility-boosting international trips

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.

Johnson Boris CopenhagenThe newspapers this morning are awash with Borismania. Andrew Grice in the Independent says the Mayor of London's inner circle are scouting seats in London and the South East for him to stand in, should an election be called. Charles Moore argues that conventional politics is not working - and Johnson is anything but a conventional politician. Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian urges the left to take Johnson seriously. Freedland says he is "the one person in British politics who passes both the Madonna test – no surname necessary – and The Simpsons test, a character recognisable by his silhouette alone".

An important story in the Times (£) this morning says that the Mayor will capitalise on his popularity, and the success - so far - of the Olympics, to travel abroad - and try to get billions of pounds of trade deals for London. The trip will include stops in India, the Middle East, Brazil and China, and will begin at the end of the year.

The trip will, therefore, come after Johnson's speech to the Conservative conference, which, the Times reports, will be a "tub-thumping" speech to appeal to the grassroots.

It will also come after Johnson launches two offensives against the Government. The Mayor is said to be "intending to confront ministers over the budget handed to London by arguing that the capital should keep more of the vast tax revenue it generates", and will "use a government consultation to call for a new airport in the South East."

Johnson is in a unique position: he is a national figure, an elected British politician with a large individual mandate, and does not have the pressure of constituency surgeries and whips, and so on. He is therefore able, in the style of American politicians (think Mitt Romney's recent trip to London), to take a foreign trip and build his foreign policy credibility. His perceived rivals for the leadership (the Independent today gives the odds on Johnson, Gove, Osborne, Hammond, Hague and Davis) are not able to do that; they would either be on government business, or would slip under the radar.

A source tells the Times: "Frankly, Boris is one of the few people who could deliver this ... his contact with sovereign wealth funds and big business leaders, as well as his draw as a political personality, is a key selling point for a lot of these people".

To date, Boris has had some modest success in America: building a relationship with the Mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg, and promoting his most recent book about London on well-known chat shows. However, if Boris can survive, relatively gaffe-free, a series of trips to the developing nations, drum up trade for London (and Britain), and appear to be a credible international figure, his emergence as party members' early favourite to be the next Tory leader will surely be consolidated, and he may well become an irresistible King Over the Water for grassroots Tories.


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