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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Emmanuel Macron can win - but so can Marine Le Pen

Macron is the frontrunner, but he remains vulnerable to an upset. 

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is campaigning in the sixth largest French city aka London today. He’s feeling buoyed by polls showing not only that he is consolidating his second place but that the voters who have put him there are increasingly comfortable in their choice

But he’ll also be getting nervous that those same polls show Marine Le Pen increasing her second round performance a little against both him and François Fillon, the troubled centre-right candidate. Her slight increase, coming off the back of riots after the brutal arrest of a 22-year-old black man and Macron’s critical comments about the French empire in Algeria is a reminder of two things: firstly the potential for domestic crisis or terror attack to hand Le Pen a late and decisive advantage.  Secondly that Macron has not been doing politics all that long and the chance of a late implosion on his part cannot be ruled out either.

That many of his voters are former supporters of either Fillon or the Socialist Party “on holiday” means that he is vulnerable should Fillon discover a sense of shame – highly unlikely but not impossible either – and quit in favour of a centre-right candidate not mired in scandal. And if Benoît Hamon does a deal with Jean-Luc Mélenchon – slightly more likely that Fillon developing a sense of shame but still unlikely – then he could be shut out of the second round entirely.

What does that all mean? As far as Britain is concerned, a Macron or Fillon presidency means the same thing: a French government that will not be keen on an easy exit for the UK and one that is considerably less anti-Russian than François Hollande’s. But the real disruption may be in the PR battle as far as who gets the blame if Theresa May muffs Brexit is concerned.

As I’ve written before, the PM doesn’t like to feed the beast as far as the British news cycle and the press is concerned. She hasn’t cultivated many friends in the press and much of the traditional rightwing echo chamber, from the press to big business, is hostile to her. While Labour is led from its leftmost flank, that doesn’t much matter. But if in the blame game for Brexit, May is facing against an attractive, international centrist who shares much of the prejudices of May’s British critics, the hope that the blame for a bad deal will be placed solely on the shoulders of the EU27 may turn out to be a thin hope indeed.

Implausible? Don’t forget that people already think that Germany is led by a tough operator who gets what she wants, and think less of David Cameron for being regularly outmanoeuvered by her – at least, that’s how they see it. Don’t rule out difficulties for May if she is seen to be victim to the same thing from a resurgent France.

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