Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Tory leadership rivals may be jumping too early

The Coalition is trying to make today about childcare after announcing plenty of housing initiatives over the weekend. Announcing different policies in a drip-drip in the run-up to the Budget means they get their own limelight – and that’s fine if you’ve got enough left in the larder once the statement itself arrives. George Osborne has learned from the 2012 Budget the art of spinning things out while leaving enough to hand out on the day – particularly giveaways that Sun readers like.

But today is also about the frankly weird shenanigans at the top of the Conservative party which continued this morning with Boris Johnson’s father pressing his case for the party rules to be changed so that the Mayor could be party leader. Last night I revealed that Michael Gove had been ‘torn a new one’ by the Prime Minister for his own intervention about there being too many Etonians at the top, which was interpreted as being the Education Secretary doing George Osborne’s dirty work to further the Chancellor’s leadership ambitions. And Baroness Warsi decided to highlight the Prime Minister’s weak spot by popping up on ITV’s The Agenda with an ‘Eton Mess’ front page.

There is, of course, jostling in the Lib Dems too, and there’s currently no vacancy there either. Danny Alexander is working hard to raise his profile, which is being read both as a bid for a future leadership contest and also a bid to take over from Vince Cable as the party’s main economy man. This has rattled some of those who also hope to lead the Lib Dems one day although they’ve managed to resist descending into the same strange race that the Conservatives are expending more energy than is necessary over.

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