By Estelle Shirbon
Prime Minister David Cameron gave London Mayor Boris Johnson, a popular figure widely seen as his possible successor, a political role in government on Monday but stopped short of giving him a ministerial portfolio.
“Boris Johnson will be attending my Political Cabinet. As promised, he will devote his attention to his final year as Mayor of London,” Cameron said on Twitter.
In last Thursday’s general election, Johnson was elected as a Conservative member of parliament for a London constituency but his mayoral term runs until May 2016.
The political cabinet is a meeting of the official cabinet with the addition of a few extra people, a spokesman for Cameron’s Downing Street office said.
Unlike the official cabinet it excludes politically neutral civil servants and the matters discussed are party political.
Cameron’s announcement acknowledges Johnson’s prominent position in Conservative politics while keeping options open for a more specific role later when his mayoral term is over.
“The mayor has accepted an invitation from the prime minister to attend political cabinet,” a spokesman for Johnson said.
“This is not a ministerial appointment. He won’t be attending full cabinet and won’t be running any department. The mayor has always been clear – he has to fulfil his mandate running London first.”
Widely popular thanks to a comic persona built on witty repartee, upper-class eccentricity and a knack for turning blunders and mishaps into evidence of authenticity, Johnson is both an asset and a potential threat to Cameron.
Before the election, when polls were suggesting no party would win an overall majority, there was much speculation that Cameron’s position as Conservative leader was not secure and that Johnson would soon be replacing him.
In the event, Cameron led his party to a completely unexpected majority in parliament, allowing him to form a single-party government and reinforcing his personal standing within his party.
As a result, Johnson’s chances of succeeding Cameron are on hold for the time being.