Fighting over funding for infrastructure projects has become a key battlefront in the contest to see who succeeds Cameron as Tory leader
It’s a strange sensation to approach a Budget with such little anticipation. Lobby journalists, for example, are not feverishly tapping up their contacts to find out what rabbits Osborne will pull out of his red box, but instead wining and dining top Tories to see whether they are on Team Osborne or Team Boris.
How Osborne would desperately like to see off the London mayor: the chancellor loves his hi-vis jackets, donned whenever he visits a construction site to show off the UK’s growth, and he is desperate for the opportunity to turn his vision of a northern powerhouse into a reality.
Osborne has the politically unenviable task of handing his fierce rival the money he needs to get his own grand ambition, Crossrail 2, off and running
Osborne has the politically unenviable task of handing his fierce rival the money he needs to get his own grand ambition, Crossrail 2, off and running.
That would be one last achievement for BoJo before he stands down as mayor in May and, given that Osborne himself is convinced of the project’s merits, it seems inconceivable that he will do anything but begrudgingly write the cheque.
More worryingly for the chancellor, Johnson has a habit of being in the position to take the credit for the work of other senior politicians. London 2012 and its fabulous Olympic park was only possible because of the Olympic push made by his predecessor Ken Livingstone (who also pushed what became known as “Boris bikes”).
By the time the northern powerhouse is created, it could be Boris who is in Number 10, enjoying the benefits of a better balanced economy.
Mark Leftly is deputy political editor at The Independent on Sunday and associate business editor across The Independent titles