The Boris and Dave show rolls on

Mayor of London reiterates that he will staunchly oppose serious cuts to the capital.

He may be a headache for David Cameron at times, but we can be sure of one thing: grassroots Tories love Boris. After a worthy but dry address by David Willetts, the atmosphere in the conference hall tangibly changed as Boris took to the stage this morning; photographers crowded around the front stage and the over-excited crowd clapped and shouted out comments (of the "hear hear!" variety). Amid the predictable strike-bashing, light xenophobia (directed at the French), and what the man himself termed "lip-smacking Tory Party Conference style law and order fervour" was a robust argument against cuts to London's infrastructure.

Boris joked about "my friends at the Treasury", putting forward the line that a London fuels the entire economy of the UK. Nearly every place he listed - and it wasn't short - in which jobs have been created by the vast London transport industry was met with rapturous applause. Funnily enough, at a conference where the over-riding theme is "the mess we've been left in" by Labour, justifying the need for brutal cuts ahead of the comprehensive spending review, Boris was met with enthusiastic cheers as he made the case for protecting London. One suspects that the grassroots would applaud him even if he were advocating out-and-out socialism.

Amid the jokes, there was a serious point, and perhaps a warning to Conservative high command -- he repeatedly stressed that there were "tough" arguments ahead. As the leaked letter from Liam Fox last week demonstrated, spending cuts are all well and good in principle, but when it comes to their own remit being affected, the most die-hard Tories appear to think twice. The oft-noted tensions between the Mayor and the Prime Minister will be one to watch -- Boris will not accept cuts without a fight.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Emily Thornberry heckled by Labour MPs as tensions over Trident erupt

Shadow defence secretary's performance at PLP meeting described as "risible" and "cringeworthy". 

"There's no point trying to shout me down" shadow defence secretary Emily Thornberry declared midway through tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting. Even by recent standards, the 70-minute gathering was remarkably fractious (with PLP chair John Cryer at one point threatening to halt it). Addressing MPs and peers for the first time since replacing Maria Eagle, Thornberry's performance did nothing to reassure Trident supporters. 

The Islington South MP, who voted against renewal in 2007, said that the defence review would be "wide-ranging" and did not take a position on the nuclear question (though she emphasised it was right to "question" renewal). She vowed to listen to colleagues as well as taking "expert advice" and promised to soon visit the Barrow construction site. But MPs' anger was remorseless. Former shadow defence minister Kevan Jones was one of the first to emerge from Committee Room 14. "Waffly and incoherent, cringeworthy" was his verdict. Another Labour MP told me: "Risible. Appalling. She compared Trident to patrolling the skies with spitfires ... It was embarrassing." A party source said afterwards that Thornberry's "spitfire" remark was merely an observation on changing technology. 

"She was talking originally in that whole section about drones. She'd been talking to some people about drones and it was apparent that it was absolutely possible, with improving technology, that large submarines could easily be tracked, detected and attacked by drones. She said it is a question of keeping your eye on new technology ... We don't have the spitfires of the 21st century but we do have some quite old planes, Tornadoes, but they've been updated with modern technology and modern weaponry." 

Former first sea lord and security minister Alan West complained, however, that she had failed to understand how nuclear submarines worked. "Physics, basic physics!" he cried as he left. Asked how the meeting went, Neil Kinnock, who as leader reversed Labour's unilateralist position in 1989, simply let out a belly laugh. Thornberry herself stoically insisted that it went "alright". But a shadow minister told me: "Emily just evidently hadn't put in the work required to be able to credibly address the PLP - totally humiliated. Not by the noise of the hecklers but by the silence of any defenders, no one speaking up for her." 

Labour has long awaited the Europe split currently unfolding among the Tories. But its divide on Trident is far worse. The majority of its MPs are opposed to unilateral disarmament and just seven of the shadow cabinet's 31 members share Jeremy Corbyn's position. While Labour MPs will be given a free vote when the Commons votes on Trident renewal later this year (a fait accompli), the real battle is to determine the party's manifesto stance. 

Thornberry will tomorrow address the shadow cabinet and, for the first time this year, Corbyn will attend the next PLP meeting on 22 February. Both will have to contend with a divide which appears unbridgeable. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.