by GK Strategy 15th July, 2015

Labour and the Lib Dems aren’t the only parties involved in a leadership campaign

In the heady early days of David Cameron’s second term as Prime Minister, it’s easy to forget that he has already announced he won’t be serving a third. But announce it he did, as recently as March, and it means that it’s not just Labour and the Liberal Democrats who are going through a leadership campaign.

The early policy announcements of this government have already seen the candidates burnishing their credentials. The first casualty looks to be Boris Johnson, the former frontrunner. He has been increasingly marginalised as other big beasts line up to slap him down.

First came the report from the Airports Commission backing a third runway at Heathrow. Boris has long been staunchly opposed to that idea, instead trumpeting his slightly idiosyncratic alternative, an island hub in the Thames Estuary. He’s not yet completely lost the battle and has Zac Goldsmith, his likely successor in City Hall, on his side, but other potential Tory leaders have been able to position themselves as on the side of the business and economic growth as a consequence.

Next came George Osborne’s Budget, which was rightly characterised as an attempt to steal Labour’s clothes. But the “living wage” policy is not just aimed at the post-Miliband opposition; it’s also a firm blow to Boris’s attempts to secure higher earnings in the capital. It’s clearly stung the Mayor; he’s already been complaining to the London Assembly that the chancellor has “taken the wind” out of the campaign for a true living wage.

Finally, today, a third insult: Theresa May, the Home Secretary, ruled out the use of water cannon on the streets of England and Wales. This was a real slap in the face for Boris – who had already authorised the Metropolitan Police to buy three cannon from Germany at a cost to the public purse of £218,000. One wonders quite what they will use them for now: perhaps cooling tourists at London’s summer festivals.

The latter two moves are significant because they show other leadership hopefuls trying to push Boris off his natural territory. Osborne knows he needs to build a reputation as more than an economic axeman; May knows she needs to counteract perceptions that she is authoritarian.

It will be fascinating to watch what happens next.

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