Four reasons why Boris Johnson becoming MP for Henley makes perfect sense

Senior Tory MP warns against driving Boris out of party

Boris Johnson resigned as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip last Friday. He did not go quietly – nor, most believe, did he go for good.

In a 1,000-word statement he lambasted the “egregious bias” of the Privileges Committee, saying he was “forced out of Parliament”. He also ended with a caveat – he was sad to be leaving his constituency behind, but added: “At least for now.”

His departure has triggered a by-election for the West London seat. A Conservative stronghold since 1970, their margins were wearing thin in recent years. His 2017 majority of 5,034 votes was the smallest of any sitting Prime Minister since 1924. In 2019 he increased this, but only to 7,000 seats.

Speculation has abounded over which seat Mr Johnson would be likely to go after if he were to stand again as an MP. Some have suggested Nadine Dorries’ safe but now-vacant seat of Mid Bedfordshire.

There are, however, a number of reasons why Mr Johnson would fare far better in familiar territory – Henley.

1. He knows victory in the seat already

When Mr Johnson first put himself forward to run as Conservative MP for Henley ahead of the 2001 general election, the local branch of the party was wary of his lack of knowledge of the local area.

Regardless, he won the seat with an 8,500-seat majority and bought a farmhouse house in Thame, Oxfordshire – which he still owns to this day. Ingratiating himself with the locals, he regularly attended Henley social events and wrote for the Henley Standard.

In 2005 he increased his majority to 12,793 votes. He only left the seat in 2008 to become Mayor of London, after seven years.

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2. He has just bought a new home there

Now in 2023, he and wife Carrie Johnson have moved back to the area. The former Prime Minister has taken up residence of the £3.8million Brightwell Manor – a 400-year-old moated mansion in the picturesque village of Brightwell-cum-Sotwell.

This is no part-time countryside bolthole. With nine bedrooms, five bathrooms, six reception rooms and multiple open fireplaces, it sits on five acres of Oxfordshire land and comes with a guest cottage, tennis court and stables.

Since leaving Number 10 last September, the Johnsons have lived rent-free in a £20million townhouse in London’s Knightsbridge, as well as a Cotswolds cottage provided by wealthy Tory donors.

3. Henley is used to big personalities

The Henley constituency also has a history of being chaired by big political personalities. Mr Johnson’s predecessor was none other than Michael Heseltine.

Michael Ray Dibdin Heseltine, Baron Heseltine, was a Conservative MP for nearly 40 years between 1966 and 2001, holding Henley from 1974 onwards.

A frontbencher under Margaret Thatcher and Deputy Prime Minister under John Major, he garnered a reputation for being a savvy media performer and unafraid critic of the leaders he served.

Upon leaving in 2001 he was made a life peer, but his political interventions continued long after retirement. Despite the parallels in their personality, Lord Heseltine and Mr Johnson found themselves at odds over Brexit, and in 2019 he had the whip suspended for claiming he would vote for the Liberal Democrats instead of the Tories in the upcoming European Parliament elections.

4. The seat is safe

Partygate may have made his political position untenable in the short term, but Mr Johnson still commands a great deal of support in the Commons and among the electorate.

He remains, after all, the architect of the Tories’ 2019 landslide 365-seat general election victory – one almost certain to not be replicated in 2024.

The Conservatives would do well to keep him on side – if only to prevent him starting his own party, or teaming up with former UKIP frontman Nigel Farage.

The Henley seat is a safe one, having been held by Conservative candidates continuously since 1910. John Howell succeeded Mr Johnson in 2008 and has held the constituency comfortably ever since.

Taking home 54.8 percent of the vote in 2019, Mr Howell’s majority hit 14,000. Crucially, however, in April this year, he confirmed he would not stand for re-election, citing old age and his intention to pursue “other avenues”. The door for Boris Johnson is open.

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