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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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