Boris Johnson: The joker bides his time as he eyes the Tory leadership

Johnson's iconic hairstyle was exposed to the elements during a helicopter ride. Photo: PA

Have you ever wondered what has happened to Boris? A politician once noted for his pointed interventions has been rather well-behaved of late. You'd almost think there had been some kind of deal between him and his old mates and rivals, David Cameron and George Osborne.

And I think there probably has. Not a formal one perhaps (though that is conceivable), but I suspect that if he continues to be moderately helpful, Boris will get a safe seat to fight at the next election and then, if the Conservatives win, a place around the cabinet table. After that, when David Cameron steps aside, he will be free to fight it out with George Osborne, Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt (doing rather well at health, it seems, and somewhat revitalising his credentials) for the Tory crown.

You would have to say that Boris probably remains the front runner. He is the only politician I have ever met who gets hollered at by people from across the street pretty much wherever he goes. And weirdly enough, I have discovered this week that this even extends to China. It was mayhem on the Star Ferry in Hong Kong harbour today. The blonde mop has landed.

I suppose the question is; should we take him seriously? Is he just a joker?

I suppose the question is; should we take him seriously? Is he just a joker? Credit: PA Wire

Well, I came out to China to take a closer look and there is no doubt Boris is serious about the things he cares about (principally, at the moment, London's economic performance). Yes, he is funny, but he is a cunning devil and he uses humour quite deliberately as a political weapon.

There are plenty of hurdles that stand in his way. Theresa May is doing well at the Home Office and George Osborne appears to be winning the economic argument, but Boris remains a formidable operator and absolutely the one to watch.