Should Cameron quit? Ask him yourself, says Boris

Mayor of London does little to quell speculation that he is after the top job.

Boris Johnson was hardly the picture of loyalty at a press conference this afternoon. He was asked why Sir Paul Stephenson should have to resign because of his links with Neil Wallis, when David Cameron has not over his links to Andy Coulson. Rather than dismissing the suggestion that the Prime Minister's resignation might be necessary, Johnson replied:

This is a matter you must frankly direct to Number 10 Downing Street, and I suggest you ask them.

Cameron, currently on a trade trip to Africa, will be less than thrilled. FT Westminster also reports that a Daily Mail journalist asked him whether he was considering his position. He responded with deliberately vague language:

The British government, in terms of the phone hacking scandal, has taken all of the appropriate actions. we have set up a judicial inquiry, we have made sure there is a properly funded police investigation. We have published huge amounts of information about any meetings between politicians and senior media executives. So i think we have given a very clear answer. Parliament is going to come back on Wednesday, I'm going to make a big statement updating what we are doing with the judicial inquiry. I will be able to answer any of the questions that have come up in the last couple of days. I feel I have been out there in Parliament, in press conferences fully answering the questions, fully transparent, very clear about what needs to be done - making sure that Britain gets to the bottom of what has been a terrible episode in terms of what newpapers have done, hacking into private data. And also some very big questions about potential police corruption. we need to get to the bottom of those.

Cameron may be wishing he had stayed in London to keep a better eye on his friend and colleague.

 

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

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.