Boris Johnson is hunting a seat in Parliament and reports have suggested the London Mayor could be in line for a rapid rise to the Cabinet.
The constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip is thought to be a leading contender after incumbent Tory MP Sir John Randall announced earlier this year he would retire and not defend his more than 11,000 vote majority.
The Daily Telegraph suggested he could be made Business Secretary, with particular responsibility for infrastructure, when his term as mayor expires in 2016 – assuming David Cameron is re-elected as Prime Minister.
The mayor has been touted for such a position in the past and Mr Johnson’s declaration he would in “all probability” seek a seat encouraged sources to tell the newspaper the key role could be offered to him as soon as he left office at City Hall.
Mr Johnson’s announcement, which came as he answered questions following a speech on Europe at Bloomberg’s London headquarters, also raised questions over whether he was positioning to replace David Cameron as Tory leader.
Bookmakers Ladbrokes responded by slashing the odds of Mr Johnson becoming the next Conservative leader from 5/1 to 9/4. Labour said it was a clear sign the Tories were turning in on themselves with Mr Cameron powerless to intervene.
The Prime Minister backed the announcement, tweeting: “Great news that Boris plans to stand at next year’s general election – I’ve always said I want my star players on the pitch.”
A source in the Uxbridge Conservative association told The Times Mr Johnson would have to move quickly if he wanted to secure the seat.
The source said: “Things have moved on quickly. The selection process is now set in motion. We’re gearing up for it a nd the association will make a final choice on September 12.
“So if Boris wishes to apply for the constituency, he’s got to get his intentions known to central office pretty quick. If he wants to throw his hat in the ring, he’ll have to do it over the next week or so.”
And the Labour candidate in the seat, Chris Summers, warned the mayor could not take the significant majority for granted if he were to be selected to fight the seat.
He said: “If Boris Johnson is parachuted into Uxbridge and South Ruislip I think many voters will feel that they have been taken for granted.
“It may have been have a safe Tory seat under the well-respected Sir John Randall but that does not mean it will be safe with Boris, a man who wants to close down Heathrow airport, one of the area’s main employers.
“Let him try his hand in Uxbridge and South Ruislip. I’m up for the challenge. I’d be a full-time MP who would work hard for my constituents, not a fly-by-night part-timer who has his eye on a bigger prize.”
Following Mr Johnson’s announcement, senior Tories leapt to praise the move.
Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps told the BBC he was “delighted” about the news, describing the London Mayor as an “Olympic gold” politician.
He said: “We definitely want and need him in Parliament.
“By any standing, Boris Johnson has been a remarkable mayor; he’s certainly one of the superstar line-up and he’s the sort of person you would want in a future Conservative government.”
And Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said Mr Johnson’s announcement was “fantastic news” for the Conservatives and that Mr Cameron would be “absolutely delighted”.
But Labour’s Sadiq Khan, the shadow minister for London, said Mr Johnson’s announcement showed the Conservatives were turning in on themselves.
“Boris Johnson’s announcement reveals how weak David Cameron is and how out of touch the Tories remain,” he said.
“Rather than focusing on helping the millions of Britons suffering from the cost-of-living crisis, the Tories are increasingly turning inwards, focused on leadership battles to come, with David Cameron powerless to do anything about it.”
Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes, a Government justice minister and former London mayor candidate, said: “Boris Johnson’s decision to stand for Parliament goes completely against the commitment he made when standing to be re-elected as London’s Mayor.
“The Mayor of London should make his priority affordable housing for thousands of Londoners, not parliamentary housing for Boris Johnson.
“The Mayor of London should focus 100% on delivering the homes, transport, training and employment which Londoners need.”