Cameron hits back at Boris

"We will see what happens the next time he comes around with the begging bowl," says No. 10.

Boris Johnson's intervention over this week's cabinet reshuffle was his most striking yet. Not only did he condemn David Cameron's decision to remove Justine Greening as Transport Secretary (an extraordinary show of dissent), he added that it would be "simply mad" to build a third runway at Heathrow and vowed to "fight this all the way", even refusing to rule out fighting a by-election on the issue.

The Prime Minister, to put it mildly, might have hoped for a more helpful contribution from the Mayor as he sought to refresh his government. But Boris, still basking in post-Olympic glory, was determined to seize an opportunity to burnish his credentials as an alternative Conservative leader and reach out to those Tories alienated by Cameron.

It is unsurprising, then, that the Prime Minister felt it necessary to retaliate. "We will see what happens the next time he comes around with the begging bowl," one Downing Street official told today's FT. "He might need us one day." Cameron is reportedly considering withholding government support for projects such as "Crossrail II" (a new rail line from Chelsea to Hackney) and and a tunnel under the Thames at Silvertown.

If Boris and Cameron's power struggle leads to a mutually destructive war then it is Labour that will be the likely winner.

Boris Johnson has angered Downing Street with his criticism of a third runway at Heathrow. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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