Boris versus George: the new Tory battle

“The continued speculation about who in the Conservative party is putting the most effort into preparing their leadership hat to throw into the currently nonexistent ring is quite amusing,” says Isabel Hardman on Spectator.com.

London mayor Boris Johnson and Chancellor George Osborne seem to be “engaged in a strange fight about who is gaining the most currency with backbenchers so that they’re in the best possible position” once David Cameron departs as prime minister.

The education secretary, Michael Gove, was the latest to make waves after claiming in an interview with the Financial Times that the number of Etonians in Cameron’s cabinet was “preposterous”.

Rather than attacking Cameron, says Iain Martin in The Daily Telegraph, Gove’s speech is “best seen in the context of the efforts to prevent Johnson from becoming leader”.

Gove reportedly told newspaper tycoon Rupert Murdoch over dinner that he would back Osborne as leader when Cameron steps down, says James Chapman in the Daily Mail, and “has repeatedly insisted that he will not stand for the job” himself.

Cameron is said to have given Gove the job of keeping “Boris in his box” – allowing him to “sink his teeth into Boris’ ankles” in a way that neither he nor Osborne can.

Of course, if Johnson wants to become leader, he will first have to become an MP. But his father, Stanley Johnson, argues in The Guardian that – in the event of a leadership election – his son should “have a chance to enter the fray even if, at the precise moment, he wasn’t actually an MP but mayor of London”.

He finds it “odd that the universe from which future leaders of the Conservative party can be selected is strictly limited to serving members of the House of Commons”. No other “democracy in the world” has “so restricted a view of the eligible candidates”.

Whatever the reality, all this speculation over leadership is potentially harmful, says James Forsyth in The Spectator. “The Tories’ energies should now be dedicated to entrenching their reforms — not squabbling.” This would show they’re “serious about exercising power”. If the Conservative party “can’t manage even this, it really is doomed to election defeat”.

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