Shadows haunt Cameron and Miliband in conference season
Party leaders are looking spooked as Boris haunts Cameron and brother David haunts Ed
DAVID CAMERON is still worried about being overshadowed by Boris Johnson at next week’s Conservative party conference despite the pair enjoying a ‘peace lunch’ with their wives at Chequers.
The London mayor’s star is rising among Tories as fast as the Prime Minister’s is falling and Cameron’s nightmare is that Boris’s two starring engagements in Birmingham on the Tuesday will blow his big closing speech on the Wednesday out of the water.
Boris will speak from the main platform the day before Dave’s speech to tell the Tories how to win elections. The Mayor of London is being urged by his allies to be statesmanlike and serious (not easy for someone who once described his own appearances as “light buffoonery duties”).
But it’s Boris's Tuesday night speech upon which all eyes will be turned. He will speak on the fringe of the conference at an event hosted by the ConservativeHome website, run by Tim Montgomerie, which has been a thorn in Cameron's side ever since he formed the coalition with Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems. The subject of his address is: ‘Boris Johnson's 2012. Re-elected and Olympotastic.’
Small wonder therefore that Cameron called Boris and Mrs Boris a fortnight ago to offer them Sunday lunch at Chequers at the weekend.
It's easy to imagine the conversation: 'Now look here, Boris. You can't become Prime Minister this side of the general election and I don't want you cocking it up for me.'
Anything Cameron said to his fellow Old Etonian is unlikely to have much effect, as Boris cannot help but play to the gallery when the spotlight turns on him.
Meanwhile, Ed Miliband is dealing with his own shadow at the Labour party conference in Manchester: his brother David, who will be absent from Ed's keynote speech tomorrow afternoon. David said yesterday if he was present in the hall - where the unions elected his brother two years ago - he would become the story not Ed.
David's allies are urging him to stay for Ed's speech and to get back into the rough and tumble of politics as a member of his brother's shadow cabinet at Westminster. The only point when Ed appeared pained yesterday in his interview on the Andrew Marr Show was when he was asked about his brother.
"He made the decision not to join the shadow cabinet," said Ed, almost visibly wincing. "He wants to be on the front line but not on the front bench." Asked whether the door was open for him to come back, Ed ducked the question, saying: "He is a huge asset to the Labour Party..."
Ed the Geek will try to rebrand himself as a Good Bloke in the Labour party political broadcast going out this week. But the truth is - judging by the opinion polls - the voters would rather have David than Ed while Boris is streets ahead of Cameron in the popularity stakes.
A YouGov poll a fortnight ago showed Boris to be Britain's most respected political leader with a net score on ‘respect’ of plus 25 points, while Camo scored minus 18.
A Populus poll for the Tory Party published at the weekend showed that nearly 65 per cent of Labour voters believe David Miliband would have made a better leader than his younger brother.
The Labour and Conservative party conferences are likely to reinforce the feeling that it is a pity the two parties are not led by Boris and David. Now that would be a contest. ·