The decision to have the Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s Party Conference speak just after the one from the Home Secretary Theresa May prompted a mischievous element in the Twitter community to present it as a leadership hustings.
Another likely contender – the Chancellor George Osborne – had his slot yesterday.
The stock loyalist response is to declare that the Conservatives will win the General Election next year and therefore David Cameron will continue as our leader. But does it follow that Mr Cameron would seek a third term in Downing Street? If not he might well wish to stand down before hand – in 2018 or 2019.
It seems entirely prudent to be giving due consideration to potential successors. Quite apart from it being jolly sport.
The good news is that both Theresa and Boris gave strong performances. The tone was naturally very different.
The Home Secretary gave a robust response to Islamist extremism:
“Those extremists are dangerous but they are a small minority. We know the overwhelming majority of British people want to be free. Free from danger. Free from fear. Free from prejudice. Free from discrimination. Free to practise their religion. Free to observe their cultures and traditions. Free to dress as they like. Free to be educated as they choose. Free to work where they wish. Free to live with whom they love. Free to raise their families as they see fit. Free to get on with their lives.
“We must not become a society where these things are no longer possible. We must confront segregation and sectarianism. We must face down extremism in all its forms. We must stand up for our values. Because, in the end, as they have done before, those values, our British values, will win the day, and we will prevail.”
Some commentators felt that the sombre tone struck by May would make the customary good humoured barnstorming from Boris jar.
For example James Chapman of the Daily Mail tweeted:
Steely, clever, serious stuff from Theresa May on big challenges of our time. Difficult for Boris to follow this with a comic turn #cpc14
— James Chapman (Mail) (@jameschappers) September 30, 2014
While Isabel Hardman of The Spectator felt it would be “difficult” for Boris to follow.
As it turned out Boris did fine. The audience loved it as they always do. But Team May will be pleased. She should more passion than in previous speeches. She closed the gap on her rivals. Boris was up to expectations – but Theresa exceeded them.