Conservative Diary

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The Boris Manifesto looks to be taking shape

By Peter Hoskin
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The Games may be over, but one of the main political stories that emerged from them keeps on running. This morning, Boris Johnson has twice had to deny that he’s working to undermine David Cameron. Will he sidle into Zac Goldsmith’s seat of Richmond Park & North Kingston and have a shot at the Tory leadership? That’s a rumour straight from “cloud cuckoo land,” apparently. And what about the inquiry he's establishing into airport capacity? Is that a rival to the government's own? No, no, no, it's all part of the same process, he says, and he’s “flummoxed” as to why anyone would think otherwise.

But, despite Boris's denials, these continuing stories are significant for two reasons:

  1. Zac Goldsmith may be an extreme case when it comes to these things, but he’s still indicative of increasing Tory discontent over airport capacity. And this is certainly something that Boris could exploit were he looking to cause mischief, particularly as it falls onto his patch as Mayor of London. So is that what he’s up to with this inquiry? Perhaps. Or perhaps it’s just, as he claims, an innocent contribution to the government’s own review. But the fact remains that Boris’s inquiry will reach its conclusions about two years before the government’s — so, on aviation at least, he will be offering Ideas Now, whereas David Cameron will be offering Ideas TBC. This division will not be lost on some Tory MPs.
  2. With it ruling out the expansion of Heathrow from the start, this inquiry gives Boris an opportunity to restate a bellicose political position. But, crucially, it also allows him to give a more detailed account of the alternatives he would prefer. And it’s this mix — politics with detail — that smells slightly of a manifesto, or at least of draft sub-clause 27 in Boris’s Plan for the Nation. With Boris also releasing a “blueprint” for how he envisions London in 2020, later this year, there’s a sense that he’s trying to address the complaint that he offers, as Tim once put it, “more postures than policies”.

None of this is likely to win over our columnist Bruce Anderson, however. In his article today he rails against Boris’s “recent nonsense over the airport,” and warns that “there will be more to come”. Read it here.


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