Keith Newbery: Clowning glory for Boris

The next time the Cabinet meets, David ­Cameron should lead ­everyone in a roistering chorus of ‘How do you solve a problem like our Boris?’

It won’t help them come up with a solution, but at least they will be able to get the ­matter off their chests.

Quite simply, Boris ­Johnson is a phenomenon; the first politician in ­living ­memory whose appeal ­transcends party ­boundaries in such a pulsating and ­compelling fashion.

You would think any party would be grateful to have such a stellar performer in its ranks, but the ­Conservatives (certainly in the highest reaches of the organisation) are deeply wary of him.

They are uncomfortable with the broad reach of his popularity, suspicious of his motives and entirely helpless when it comes to controlling his methods or ambitions.

Johnson, in turn, takes full advantage of his ­semi-detached relationship with the ­parliamentary party, which ­allows him to make clear his aims and ambitions with a ­clarity and freedom ­denied to the rest of them.

He can be amusing, but ­humour and intelligence are not mutually ­exclusive and those who dismiss him as ­nothing more than a ­professional ­comedian are way off the mark.

He is, in fact, an extremely unprofessional comedian who continually ­crashes his own punch-lines and rarely ­allows the laughter and ­applause to reach a natural ­crescendo.

So, is Boris Johnson ­nothing more than a ­shallow seeker ­after publicity; a man who would be out of his depth in the upper echelons of ­national and international politics?

Definitely not.

Is he manipulative and a little devious?

Almost certainly.

Has he got a ruthless edge to his personality?

Without doubt.

Is what we see what we are likely to get if he should ever win the ­leadership of the ­Conservative Party?

Of course not.

The Mayor of London is playing a long and clever game.

He knows the ­Conservatives have ­little chance of winning the next election, and that ­Cameron will be gone soon ­thereafter.

In 2016 – with his London duties at an end – Johnson will be ­ushered into a safe seat and ­become leader of his party by 2018.

Two years later he will ­become Prime Minister – and the clown will finally get to play the serious role he has coveted for so long.