THE Prime Minister addressed his party conference yesterday. It was his day in the sun. He followed Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband in setting the political weather. Alex Salmond will hope to achieve the same at the forthcoming nationalist conference.
David Cameron has had an easier party gathering than last year. The phenomena that is the Mayor of London seemed strangely subdued. Boris Johnson delivered a comedy routine rather than a political speech this week. He looked more like the court jester than a political heavyweight. But he wants to be back in the House of Commons. There can be no doubting his burning ambition.
When Boris does seek a Commons constituency there will be open season on the Tory leadership. Cameron’s performance will be minutely scrutinised. Every Boris utterance will be pored over. The Press will comment on little else. It will be the political soap opera of the year.
On the surface that does not look good news for the Conservatives. A running commentary on the chances of Boris becoming Tory leader would not appear to help an incumbent Prime Minister whose main political challenge will be holding off the Labour Party.
It will be difficult for the Tories to attack Ed Miliband’s leadership credentials when Cameron is being attacked from his own side on the same grounds. There can be no doubt that Boris will have his Westminster outriders promoting his national appeal. He will be more sceptical of Europe than Cameron. That is about neutering the Ukip effect that holds real dangers for the Tories in Con-Lab and Con-Lib Dem marginal seats.
A rising Ukip vote means Lib Dem MPs holding their seats and Labour winning constituencies lost in 2010.
Cameron’s referendum on Europe does not hold water with voters who want an end to the European Union. They will vote Ukip as that is a vote for unilateral withdrawal. Expect Boris Johnson to park his tank on this political territory and redefine Britain’s relationship with Europe.
As this soap opera hurtles on, Labour will struggle to be heard. They do not want policy on foreign affairs to be defined by Europe. It creates difficulties in their ranks too. So, with some justification, they will talk up domestic political change and policy initiatives such as freezing energy prices. They will paint the Tories as a party talking about an issue way down the voters’ priorities.
But the Dave and Boris show has a recent parallel in politics. It is a mirror image of Brown and Blair. Even when the relationship between the then prime minister and his chancellor was at least civil, the press would talk of little else. The Tory Opposition was a sideshow. The interesting politics was the relationship between Tony and Gordon. That is how the run-in to 2015 looks.
Boris and Dave are more box office than Ed. Labour have to recognise that and plan. Is the future of the UK about policies that help voters, or personalities?