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19 October 2009

Boris v Cameron part 94

Latest divide over "Estuary Airport"

By James Macintyre

Some three months ago, I reported that relations between David Cameron, the Conservative leader, and his rival Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, were at a low over a number of substantial issues. One of those was “Johnson’s plans for an estuary airport”. As ever, there were howls of protest in the partisan Tory blogosphere. It is now more or less accepted throughout the media that there is real rivalry and there are real tensions between these two former Etonians and Bullingdon members.

Tonight, the London Evening Standard is reporting that Cameron is “under pressure to declare whether he would support a Thames Estuary airport after a report commissioned by Mayor Boris Johnson said constructing it was “technically feasible”. The Tories, remember, have controversially pledged to scrap plans for a third runway at Heathrow.

As the Standard reports, the shadow transport secretary, Theresa Villiers, said the project was “not something the Conservative Party is looking into”, but Bernard Jenkin said: “If we could prove that this was fundable I think this idea will then be in play.”

Meanwhile, the excellent, evidence-based blog Left Foot Forward, run by Will Straw, has highlighted Johnson’s extravagent annual taxi bill for the taxpayer, which comes in at £5,000. Cameron may have cause to wonder why he should, as Johnson demanded recently, give up ministerial cars when in office.

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In reality, these issues are part of a wider story that will only grow from now: the jostling between two men who want to be prime minister.

It is going to be one to watch.

Update: Bernard Jenkin has pointed out he is not, as the Standard and I wrote, Theresa Villiers’s “deputy”. He says: “I am not Theresa Villiers’s deputy. I am a backbencher. I am chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Thames Estuary Airport (TEA) Group”. I am happy to amend that. But the point still stands.