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Cameron plays the “national leadership” card against Boris

By Peter Hoskin
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Boris having a dig, even just a friendly dig, at the Tory leadership? We’ve seen that a thousand times. But the Tory leadership having a dig at Boris? That’s a rarer species altogether, so it’s worth pasting into our collective scrapbook. Here, as recorded in today’s Times (£), is what David Cameron had to say yesterday about the Mayor of London’s opposition to a third runway at Heathrow:

“The Prime Minister said that the Mayor of London was wrong to rule out a third runway at Heathrow on the morning that the panel charged with studying the aviation needs of the capital was announced.

He also made clear that Mr Johnson would not have a veto over a once-in-a-generation decision that was critical for the country as a whole. ‘In the end the decision is a national decision that the Government has to lead,’ Mr Cameron told The Times. ‘What is not right is to say, I only want my options considered and not anyone else’s.’”

For any Kremlinologists among us, the nature of Mr Cameron’s attack might set various alarms a-ringing. Look at the wording: “a national decision that the Government has to lead”. This not only sets up a divide, intentionally or no’, with Boris’s London-centric politics, but it also hints at the qualities — statesmanship, national leadership, etc — that the PM’s supporters believe separate him from the Mayor of London.

But the continuing problem for Mr Cameron is that — in his political vicinity, at least — the opposition to a third runway is particularly vehement. If he carries on with such attacks, then he might provoke not just Boris, but some Tory backbenchers and the Lib Dems too.

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