By Peter Hoskin
Follow Peter on Twitter
A week ago, they were hugging — now the air between David Cameron and Boris Johnson may be a little icier. The Mayor of London has given an interview to today’s Evening Standard in which he attacks the government in ways that are at once familiar and even more fierce than usual. Here are my quick notes:
Airport, airport, airport. Boris’s main attack — and a theme that runs throughout the interview — is over infrastructure, and particularly the airport that he’d like to see built in the Thames estuary. “The government needs to stop pussyfooting around,” he says of the current consultation into the airport. And he adds, “The attempt to try and long-grass it for three years into the other side of the election is just not realistic. Totally mad and it won’t work.” The attack is particularly telling as the consultation was widely regarded as a concession to Boris in the first place; a chance that he might get his island aerodrome. But the Mayor’s patience is clearly running thin.
Claiming allies in the government (none of them Mr Cameron). Intriguingly, Boris mentions the man whom many regard as his main leadership rival — George Osborne — as someone who is “actually very much up for big ideas like this”. He also says that, “Justine Greening is the girl, she is the person who gets it.” But there are no such kind words for Mr Cameron, who is placed in close proximity to phrases such as “institutional capture”. And this despite the fact that the Prime Minister is thought to have warmed to the idea of Boris Island, against the wishes of the Lib Dems.
Capturing the Olympic spirit to sell an economic agenda. Of course Boris was going to tie together the Olympics and politics:
“Inertia is not a word that fits the Mayor who moves about his office like a suited bison and is in the throes of a ‘world tour’ in the autumn to drum up trade. ‘It’s all about jobs and growth in London and in the country,’ he says. ‘The way to get business really motoring in the UK is to cut taxes, cut regulation, create the infrastructure and get behind it. That’s what you should do. That’s what I recommend.’
The ‘can do’ spirit of the Olympics should be the impulse behind this economic drive. ‘The Olympics didn’t change us, but it shows us what we are. It shows that this isn’t a nation of whingeing, sceptic ne’er-do-wells, sitting around moaning about everything. Actually, when people are given a chance they can enjoy themselves in a most fantastic way and they can dazzle the world.’”
And while we’ve heard all of that before, the timing is what makes it count. In the run-up to the party conference and Autumn Statement, you can expect plenty of Tory backbenchers to make similar points.
His Olympic legacy. Boris will be releasing a “blueprint for the city in 2020” at the end of the year. “It will be a well argued account of what our ambitions are and what the difficulties are in getting there — childhood illiteracy, childhood poverty — and what we see as the necessary steps to take,” he says. And it could also be another clash of ideas with the government, particularly if the refreshed Coalition agenda is released around then. Is this the Boris manifesto that Tim suggested recently?
His future. It’s another four years of being London Mayor, apparently — but Boris doesn’t rule out returning to the Commons and beyond after that. In his own words: “Four years is a long time in politics. All this is incredibly flattering and bad for my ego. But it’s nonsense. I’ve got to get on with being Mayor.”