The B-word, the C-word: it’s Bojo vs Cameron
London mayor will have party ‘eating out of his hand’, whether Cameron likes it or not
BORIS JOHNSON is not reading from David Cameron’s script at the Tory party conference in Manchester. While the Prime Minister described a "modern and compassionate" party on Sunday, the Mayor of London went wildly off-piste by discussing his new demand for tough laws against swearing at policemen.
Johnson is to address the conference this week and as a true darling of the party he will be a major attraction. His words will be carefully scrutinised for signs of friction with Cameron, or of increased ambition.
Latent tension has been fuelled by the release of Sonia Purnell’s biography, Just Boris, which reveals a long history of rivalry and antipathy, at the height of which Johnson reportedly considered writing a newspaper column titled: 'Why David Cameron is a complete cunt.'
Purnell’s account describes an ambitious Johnson, repeatedly thwarted by Cameron, who passed him over for top shadow cabinet positions. "There was a feeling of 'do we really need to promote Boris?’" a senior ‘Cameroon’ is quoted as saying.
It has long been suggested that the prime minister fears Johnson’s unique brand of floppy-haired charisma, which appeals to the party’s traditional supporters. "The Conservative party loves its Boris Johnsons, and rather despises its Dave Camerons", Francis Beckett writes in the Guardian, suggesting the party would prefer an "unreconstructed toff" to a leader who has "taken his voice and accent downmarket".
Johnson has never been afraid to challenge his boss. Jonathan Ford in the Financial Times recalls occasions on which Johnson dismissed Cameron’s idea of a "broken Britain" as "piffle", and referred to "wisteria clearing" when questioned over MP’s expenses, which was the standout item on Cameron’s expenses bill.
"What is interesting about his rivalry with Cameron is the understated, crab-wise manner in which Johnson attacks – it has been called 'drive-by politics'", Ford noted, hinting at a long-game strategy from Johnson.
There are signs that Johnson’s now-or-never moment may be approaching. The Daily Mail reports that: "Membership of the Tory Party has plunged by more than 120,000 to an all-time low of 174,000", as growing numbers of traditional supporters are alienated by the party’s apparent leaning toward the political centre.
The Guardian claims that these disillusioned supporters are increasingly boarding the "Boris Johnson for Leader bandwagon", and, in another ominous sign, a City AM poll has Johnson preferred as the next party leader.
The man himself may have once described his leadership prospects as "about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars" but the odds appear to be shortening. All eyes on Manchester then, where as Purnell rightly notes, he will have "the party eating out of his hand". ·
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