** Boris (Sorry, Tory) Conference Edition ** Star Of The Party ** Heroes/Villains ** The Only Way Is... Down? ** "Workers Of The World Unite" ** The IMF Vs The Chancellor ** The Justice Secretary Vs The Burglars ** Ambitious? Moi? ** Into The Lion's Den **
David Cameron has just appeared on the Today programme in the 8:10am interview slot. I would give you a round-up of what he said to interviewer Jim Naughtie but...what's the point? Frankly, this Tory conference isn't about David Cameron, it's about the...
STAR OF THE PARTY
Forget Cleggmania. These days, British politics is gripped by Borismania. The mayor of London turned up in Birmingham yesterday and was met with huge cheers: at the train station, at his hotel, and on the fringe, where he addressed a packed rally - attended by, among others, the prime minister's communications chief Craig Oliver - organised by ConservativeHome.
This morning, the chancellor George Osborne, who gave his big speech yesterday morning [see below], has to share the front pages with the Blond One. "Tory conference is hit by Borismania," says the headline on the front of the Telegraph, next to a massive picture of Johnson being mobbed by reporters and cameramen upon his arrival Birmingham. "But at least David Cameron knows that one man is right behind him," says the Independent headline, tongue firmly lodged in cheek.
The London mayor also appears on the front page of the Times under the headline: "Boris rolls into town as star of the party". "Tory masses hail Boris as he swoops into town," is the Guardian headline, above a Simon Hoggart sketch in which the latter writes: "Not since Lenin headed towards the Finland station has there been such alarm and terror among the ruling classes."
Speaking at the rally, Boris reiterated his opposition to a third runway at Heathrow and said he was a supporter of "academic selection" in schools (at this point, Tory delegates in the audience began swooning!). Yet he also pledged his allegiance to the prime minister ("No one should have any cause to doubt my admiration for David Cameron!"), despite having earlier said it was "unverifiable" whether or not he'd make a better PM than Cameron and refused to rule out a future leadership bid.
Later this morning, the Boris bandwagon builds more momentum with the mayor's address to the party faithful in the conference chamber. Rest assured - David Cameron won't be falling asleep during this particular podium speech...
On a side note, at the Boris rally there was a video about international aid. Louise Mensch featured. She was booed. Andrew Mitchell featured. He was cheered.
THE ONLY WAY IS... DOWN?
It's not all plain-sailing for Boris...from the Guardian:
"The head of Scotland Yard has been pressed to reveal whether police knew that London mayor Boris Johnson was in touch with News International figures in the midst of their investigation into phone hacking after a series of previously undisclosed conversations by the mayor, including with Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch, came to light."
Will Rupert Murdoch and co taint Boris as they've tainted every other British politician? And how long will Borismania last? Remember: popular Tories (think Michael Heseltine or, of course, Ken Clarke) rarely get the top job. My own view is that such 'mania' can't last (just ask Clegg!)
At a Channel 4 News fringe event yesterday, Clarke himself issued the following piece of "advice" to the mayor:
"I'd say to be named as the next prime minister is usually the kiss of death for any political career … so he's got some time to contemplate … I'd have thought it's disastrous for Boris unless he gets it under control. It isn't going to go anywhere and by next year it will have gone out of fashion. Nose to the grindstone, I would advise him."
Wise, wise words...
"WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE"
Invoking Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (I kid you not!), George Gideon Osborne, the Conservative chancellor of the exchequer, used his speech to the party conference yesterday to unveil new plans to allow employees give up the right to flexible working hours, redundancy pay and the ability to claim unfair dismissal in exchange for shares in their companies.
"War on workers," screams the Mirror headline. The paper says the chancellor "is trying to turn back the clock to Victorian times by taking away workers' rights". An overstatement perhaps, but the link between employment rights and higher unemployment is pretty tenuous. The FT reports on its front page:
"Business leaders welcomed the chancellor's voluntary scheme but warned that the take-up was likely to be limited. 'This is a niche idea and not relevant to all businesses,' said John Cridland, director-general of the CBI employers' group."
The Sun, however, says the Chancellor "did rather well yesterday".
THE IMF VS THE CHANCELLOR
In his big conference speech, the chancellor also, as the Times notes in its front-page splash headline, refused "to budge over his austerity package". The paper, however, adds in its standfirst: "But chancellor advocates new measures for growth." Really? The irony is that Osborne delivered an entire speech without mentioning the G-word once. There was no sign of a plan B, plan C, plan A+, etc.
Well, with almost perfect timing, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has produced a new report on global growth (or lack thereof) in which the UK economy's growth forecast is...yes..you guessed it...downgraded. Again. From the Independent:
"The International Monetary Fund has delivered a damning verdict on Britain's recovery chances as it slashed growth forecasts for this year and next.
The IMF's latest World Economic Outlook (WEO) painted a bleak picture of a deteriorating global economy in the past three months, with the UK and US the "notable" disappointments.
...The IMF's forecasters now predict the UK economy will shrink 0.4 per cent in 2012, after slicing growth estimates by 0.6 percentage points in the past three months. It has also cut estimates for UK growth in 2013 to 1.1 per cent, barely half the optimistic-looking 2 per cent currently pencilled in by the Office for Budget Responsibility."
Lest we forget, there was a time, not so long ago, when Gideon used to quote the IMF in his conference speeches. I suspect that time has passed.
THE JUSTICE SECRETARY VS THE BURGLARS
The Telegraph and the Guardian both splash on the justice secretary Chris Grayling's plans to allow home owners who attack burglars to dodge arrest and prosecution unless they use "grossly disproportionate" violence. He said he wanted to be a "tough" justice secretary, unlike his namby-pamby predecessor, so should we have expected anything else from Grayling, who delivers his conference speech later today?
"New plans to attack burglars when protecting family," says the appropriately-populist headline on the front of the Telegraph. The paper reports:
Chris Grayling is to change the law "at the first opportunity" to give stronger legal safeguards to those who use force to protect their family or property. Speaking to The Daily Telegraph last night, Mr Grayling said that he wanted to "finally lay the issue to rest once and for all" following a series of high-profile cases where home owners who have confronted criminals have been arrested. In the future, only those using clearly excessive force, such as stabbing a burglar who was already unconscious, should face the prospect of criminal action, he said.
Incidentally, it was pretty strange to hear a senior politician on the Today programme this morning - i.e. Grayling - speaking rather graphically about "sticking a knife" in a burglar lying unconscious on the kitchen floor (in the context, I should add, of what is and isn't "disproportonate force" in his view).
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch the full video of the 90-minute presidential-style debate between comedian Jon Stewart and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly.
It seems a Tory minister was persuaded to miss the last three minutes of George Osborne's speech by two of his MP friends because, in their words: "You don't have to watch it, minister, you're not that ambitious!"
INTO THE LION'S DEN
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, arrives in Athens today for high-level talks with the Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras. It's a brave move - her first visit to the country for over five years! - given how she has been portrayed as a Nazi and a masochist in the Greek press and, of course, given how volatile and angry the Greek public is. It's believed more than 7,000 police officers are on standby in the Greek capital.
"We say to the people of France, not since 1789 has there been such a terror." - Boris Johnson welcoming French tax exiles to London. He'd make a great foreign secretary, eh?
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From the latest Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 8
This would give Labour a majority of 118.
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