While the cat is away, the mice most definitely have been playing. Three stories today suggest that we might be moving to some sort of climax of the slow-burning leadership crisis in the Conservative Party and both are in the Daily Telegraph. 

It looks like Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, who you will remember pulled out of the Conservative leadership contest which became an effective coronation for Mrs May, still burns with ambition for the top job. The first story is about his upcoming ‘showdown’ with Mrs May over a £30bn ‘divorce bill’ from the EU. Mr Johnson is apparently going to tell Mrs May this is ‘unacceptable’. Handily, this will place him on the right side of Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs, many of whom would doubtless blanch at paying such a bill, and equally conveniently it establishes a moral reason and pretext for challenging Mrs May which reaches beyond personal ambition.

Secondly, we have carefully crafted and fulsome praise for Mr Johnson from grassroots favourite Jacob Rees-Mogg. Mr Mogg has also recently ruled himself out of running for the leadership but too my recollection has never ruled out supporting another candidate were they to challenge Mrs May. I would not be surprised if Mr Mogg was promised something in return, probably a senior Cabinet post, something Theresa May has steadfastly denied him. Finally, we have similar support from the arch-schemer, the man Machiavelli could have wrote The Prince either for or about, Michael Gove.

All three stories are carefully crafted to burnish the pro-Brexit credentials of Mr Johnson, which have previously been challenged, and the two expressions of support are framed to make him look like a leader-in-waiting, they espouse qualities such as his ‘vision’ and ‘forward-thinking’, for example. Both deliberately avoid trying to reinforce any impression that Bo-Jo is a buffoon and buff him up to a shine. Watch this space because this is a story that could well develop especially with the Conservative Conference just around the corner…….

UPDATE: Theresa May has slapped-down Mr Johnson insisting the Government is ‘driven from the front’ and rejecting large chunks of his Brexit ‘manifesto’. 

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