Last week Boris Johnson was in jellyfish mode, drifting along and delivering the occasional sly sting to the coalition. Now that the Olympics are over, the Mayor has launched something of a shark attack on his Westminster colleagues. In an interview with the Evening Standard, Boris accuses ministers of ‘pussyfooting’ and calls for the government to ‘make a very powerful statement of ambition for London’ involving new infrastructure and even a new airport:
‘The government needs to stop pussyfooting around. I don’t think you can rely on Heathrow. Even if the government was so mad and wrong to try to do the third runway or mixed-mode, those solutions would rapidly run out of usefulness and time.’
He then criticises the decision by David Cameron to defer a decision on airport capacity until after 2015:
‘The attempt to try and long-grass it for three years into the other side of the election is just not realistic. Totally mad and it won’t work.’
This is a significant intervention by Boris, not least because this criticism of the government is not veiled by an obscure classical metaphor or embedded in a sentence that could be interpreted in any number of ways. He has, in no uncertain terms, told the government it is dithering, warned ministers against being ‘mad and wrong’ by plumping for a third runway at Heathrow, and dismissed Cameron’s decision to rule out a new runway until 2015 as ‘totally mad’ and ‘not realistic’. It’s as though the Mayor has been storing up all the dad-dancing, zip-wire-swinging, Hyde-Park-stirring success of the past two weeks as fuel to power this offensive on Cameron. He’s presided as Mayor over a successful Olympics and the Thames separates him from the decision-making (or distinct lack of decision-making in some respects) at the Treasury, which gives him greater authority to criticise those at the top. But he is also being very sly: after all, Cameron isn’t even in the country to respond to his comments.