DAVID Cameron appears to be more frightened of Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, than by his official political enemy Ed Miliband.
Johnson now poses a much more serious threat to the Prime Minister’s leadership than Miliband can ever hope to emulate.
The Labour leader, although his political performance has improved by leaps and bounds over the past few months, has never really properly tested Cameron in their Commons exchanges or, indeed, anywhere else.
However, with the Conservative Party conference now in full swing, Cameron is in serious danger of being upstaged by his mop-haired rival.
For that is what Johnson is: his rival. Opinion polls demonstrate that he is far more popular than the Prime Minister.
He also speaks his mind, clearly and amusingly, never reverting to Whitehallese and empty slogans. He talks the kind of hard-boiled sense that people can understand.
No wonder the heads at 10 Downing Street are apprehensive about Johnson’s speech at the Tory conference. They are worried too that he will get a bigger and better reception than Cameron himself – and well he might.
The idea that he is too much of a buffoon ever to lead the Conservative Party – an idea which is perhaps being sneakily put about by the Cameroon faction – is just nonsense.
Johnson knows better than anyone how to “connect” (Westminster’s favourite buzzword at the moment) with the voters, while the Prime Minister occasionally makes airy promises which few people believe will ever be fulfilled.
Johnson is now the Tory Party’s strongest card – an unpalatable fact which the Prime Minister must surely now recognise, even if he will not publicly admit it.
n Good riddance. At last Abu Hamza and four other terrorist suspects were extradited to the United States after an eight-year battle by their lawyers to prevent this from happening.
But it beggars belief that over this period the British taxpayer has had to fork out many millions of pounds to finance, among other things, their expensive legal fees.
If people want to appeal against extradition or anything else, surely it is up to them to finance it. Why should the man in the street have to dig deep in his pockets to support such activities?
The judge who delivered the final blow to Hamza said it was about time something was done to change the law to prevent this kind of prolonged litigation. It seems to be a case of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.
I hope, nevertheless, that the Government sits up and takes notice and amends the law in such a way that people who want to challenge legal decisions should find the finance themselves and not force the taxpayer to do so.
That might also have the desirable effect of speeding up justice in these cases.
n Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour Party conference last week could be described as a master class in saying nothing, but saying it brilliantly.
He has been acclaimed for stealing the mantra One Nation – the brainchild of Benjamin Disraeli – from the Tories.
But what is so clever about that? What, for instance, does One Nation mean in practice? Quite frankly, it sounds good, but it means nothing.
It is about as substantial as David Cameron’s favourite slogan: The Big Society – another meaningless but high-sounding phrase.
But Miliband well knows that the typical party conference audience – Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat – will clap and cheer anything that sounds good. It never occurs to them that it is usually meaningless waffle and rhetoric.
Which only goes to show that our leading politicians are trying to fool us all with slogans rather than policies.
n Don’t be surprised if you suddenly hear an ominous roll of thunderclaps within the coalition.
The weekend announcement by Chancellor George Osborne that he has ruled out any kind of wealth tax – including the Liberal Democrats’ pet policy, the mansion tax, will cause ructions among our ruling elite.
Only the other day, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, had predicted there was now “a very considerable chance” that the Tories would agree to new wealth taxes. How wrong he was.
Osborne has now denounced wealth taxes as “the politics of resentment” and described policies to force the rich to cough up more to beat the slump as “complete economic delusion”.
Not only will Clegg be fuming but Business Secretary Vince Cable, who is wedded to the idea of a mansion tax, will metaphorically be spitting blood.
It is unlikely that Cable will do the equivalent of a Mario Balotelli, the Manchester City star who threw a sulk and stormed off to Italy after being substituted on Saturday – but he must be sorely tempted.
Now we can expect the Liberal Democrats to start blocking any further austerity measures that Osborne might have in the pipeline.
You wonder how, with its two constituent parties in such conflict, the coalition can possibly last until 2015.
But it probably will because both parties realise that if it does break up they could face the possibility, both of them, of annihilation at the polls.
It’s called self-preservation – or, to put it more crudely: Save Our Skins.