Friend or foe? PM faces a Boris problem

Cameron also under pressure from coalition partners

David Cameron faces a major showdown with Nick Clegg this week as the Prime Minister battles to rescue his hopes of securing a Tory majority at the next election.

Senior Conservatives say both Mr Cameron and George Osborne, the Chancellor, believe any hopes of winning outright in 2015 depend on plans to redraw constituency boundaries. The changes would secure an extra 20 seats for the Tories but Liberal Democrats are poised to jettison the idea in retaliation for Mr Cameron's failure to deliver reform of the House of Lords.

Amid growing calls on Mr Cameron to set out how he will secure victory, and mounting speculation that Boris Johnson could challenge him for the top job, Lib Dems threatened "serious consequences" if the reforms do not go through.

The Independent on Sunday understands Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg have held tense negotiations this weekend about how to rescue the coalition's programme. "Talks are ongoing," said a well-placed source. "It's not over yet but it is very difficult."

Mr Clegg wants to see the House of Lords cut to 450 peers, with 80 per cent being elected. But last month more than 90 Tory MPs rebelled against the plans and Mr Cameron has failed to win them over ahead of another vote due in September. "A deal is a deal," a senior Lib Dem source said. "The coalition agreement is a contract. We have delivered on our side of the deal; this would be the first time they have not delivered, and there will be serious consequences."

Mr Cameron is under pressure from the London Mayor Mr Johnson, who has secured a string of PR coups during the first week of the Olympics and is now seen as the major challenger to the Tory leader.

Mr Cameron was rocked last week by an opinion poll which showed his six-point deficit against Labour would be cut to just one point if Mr Johnson were leading the Tory party. While dismissed by some as unrealistic, the speculation about Mr Johnson's leadership ambitions has built a head of steam.

Last night Mr Johnson's aides rushed to downplay reports he discussed how to secure The Sun's support for a leadership bid with the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

Tim Montgomerie, editor of the influential Tory website ConservativeHome, wrote yesterday: "I understand that Rupert Murdoch and Boris Johnson met recently and there was discussion of a scenario in which David Cameron was replaced as Tory leader in 2014.

"The implication was that Mr Murdoch would throw the weight of The Sun behind Boris Johnson if he was in position to stand as Tory leader. Boris did not protest."

But the Mayor's spokesman said last night: "It's complete and utter nonsense. There wasn't, nor has there ever been, a discussion of that nature." The Conservatives had distanced themselves from the Murdoch empire in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

But since the end of the Leveson inquiry evidence sessions there have been growing signs of a rapprochement. On Friday night Mr Murdoch was Mr Johnson's guest at the Aquatics Centre.

Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, was also seen smiling and chatting with Mr Murdoch. Charlotte Church, the singer whose phone was hacked by Mr Murdoch's News of the World, re-posted a photo of the two men on Twitter, adding: "Smarmy pair of pricks!" Aides to Mr Hunt said it was an "exchange in passing".

The Labour MP Jim Sheridan, a member of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said: "The relationship between the Conservative Party and the Murdoch empire still looks strong."

Senior Tories have suggested the Lib Dems could be bought off with the offer of reforming party funding or green policies. But the Lib Dems insist those measures are already part of the coalition agreement, and not an additional bargaining chip.

Tomorrow Mr Clegg will seek to draw a line under coalition wrangling over green policies. In a speech to a business summit, he will reassure investors that, despite public spats – particularly with George Osborne – over the Government's stance on subsidies for renewables, that there must be "no surprises; no rabbits out of hats".

"This Government is unreservedly committed to helping our low-carbon sector thrive – no ifs, no buts," he will say. "The coalition is sometimes presented, in the press, as if it is riddled with division with regard to greening the economy. That isn't the case."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us