'Operation Kill Boris' could backfire

George Osborne could get more than he bargained for in trying to derail Boris Johnson's political ambitions.

Relations between the prime minister, David Cameron, and Boris Johnson, are under strain after allegations that Cameron has been inflicting "deliberate humiliation" on London'smayor, says Sam Coates inThe Times. Friends of Johnson, elected MP for Uxbridge in May, believe there is a push to undermine his bid for the Tory leadership. "This is Operation Kill Boris," one said.

Last week, the home secretary, Theresa May, blocked his bid to allow London police to control riots using water cannon, which he had already bought.He believes George Osborne, the chancellor, is also out to "undermine"him over a range of issues (including a new runway at Heathrow, which he has long opposed) to ensure that he gets a junior Cabinet post when his term as mayor ends next year. For now, he is only a member of the so-called Political Cabinet and must "vacate his seat" at meetings of the full Cabinet, where major decisions are taken.

His return to Westminster has also "swivelled the spotlight" on his achievements at City Hall, says Sonia Purnell in The Guardian, which suggest he may not be "cut out to be a top-flight politician". Officials there complain of "delayed decisions, obsession with vanity projects and a lack of direction". He is juggling a lot, with his newspaper column, book writing and now work as an MP. "The election result, which destroyed his immediate hopes for the Tory leadership, has given his critics a chance to speak up."

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Nor does he have many allies at Westminster, says Isabel Hardman in The Sunday Times. There are those who remember his "mishaps" as MP for Henley; the more recent intakes just don't know him. One of the 2015 intake told the Daily Mail's Jack Doyle that "we don't really see him as a potential leader. He's not serious enough." The fact is that it is Osborne who is benefiting from the negative publicity and it was allegedly Osborne who triggered the recent "flurry" of articles about the "Kill Boris" campaign.

That makes it all the more galling for Johnson, for the chancellor is the "awkward Brown to Johnson's populist Blair", says Stuart Heritage in The Guardian. But Osborne should take care. The danger of this strategy is that Boris will become the underdog. Boris's appeal has always been that he isn't like other politicians even though he is. Osborne had better figure out a better way of "straitjacketing" his rival than this, otherwise it'll be Boris "answering the telephone to President Trump at 3am five years from now".

Emily Hohler

Emily has worked as a journalist for more than thirty years and was formerly Assistant Editor of MoneyWeek, which she helped launch in 2000. Prior to this, she was Deputy Features Editor of The Times and a Commissioning Editor for The Independent on Sunday and The Daily Telegraph. She has written for most of the national newspapers including The Times, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, The Evening Standard and The Daily Mail, She interviewed celebrities weekly for The Sunday Telegraph and wrote a regular column for The Evening Standard. As Political Editor of MoneyWeek, Emily has covered subjects from Brexit to the Gaza war.

Aside from her writing, Emily trained as Nutritional Therapist following her son's diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes in 2011 and now works as a practitioner for Nature Doc, offering one-to-one consultations and running workshops in Oxfordshire.