Boris Johnson, from EastEnders to Europe
Boris Johnson cheered up the troops this morning after they’d sat through Oliver Letwin and Francis Maude.
Mr Maude used to perform the role of telling the Conservatives they were finished and not up to much. Now, on the brink of possible electoral success, he manages to make government sound like such a slog they might yearn for the old version.
Boris arrived to the theme tune from EastEnders and delivered lots of gags, a demand for Crossrail (which the leadership are staying silent on), an attack on bank-bashers, an attack on the 50p tax rate that George Osborne is committed to sticking with (at least for a bit – Boris said “I will oppose higher marginal rates of tax”) and all of it preceded by media interviews this morning in which the Mayor suggested there might be a referendum on “key parts of the (Lisbon) Treaty”.
Ah, the Treaty! The strategy was to put out the holding position – no decision till the Czechs and Poles decide – but then the Poles said the signature was coming any minute soon and the Czechs said Britain had left it too late, not to raise hopes that they’d sit around not signing for months on end – the strategy developed a big hole.
All of which has put Tory high command into a bit of a pickle, no pun intended. They are trying to kill off suggestions of a partial referendum that picks out a few unpopular bits, like reclaiming old opt-outs or opposing the President of Europe clause… but those are the sort of things that have been talked about at the top of the party in private.
And those are the sort of things that would kick off a mighty stink with most EU partners, who feel they didn’t wait all these years, going through the excruciating experience of the constitution then Lisbon to see clauses in that treaty or another treaty unpicked by an incoming UK government.
The conference agenda has been hastily rewritten – David Cameron will now take to the stage at 2pm today with colleagues to try to push the welfare proposals up the news agenda.
– Related: Locked outside the Tory conference
– On Thursday the Channel 4 News website will be providing extended live coverage of David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative conference, including film extracts, expert analysis and Twitter commentary. To watch and contribute, go to www.channel4.com/news from midday on 8 October.