Boris Johnson fires warning shot at government over tax credit cuts

Is the race for the next Conservative Party leader now on?

Up at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, battle lines are being drawn.

Theresa May is today staking out her ground with a ringing attack on immigration, George Osborne has unveiled his business rates council devolution programme, and Mayor of London, Boris Johnson is muscling into the picture with criticisms of the government’s planned cuts to tax credits.

While resembling a united front, the party’s power wranglings are plain as day.

The key battle for now, is between Osborne and Johnson.

In a speech today, Johnson will fire a thinly veiled missive at Osborne over the Chancellor’s plans to cut in-work tax credits, saying that the Tories should “protect the hardest working and lowest paid”.

Johnson’s attack can be read as a further move to position himself as a compassionate “one nation Conservative”, in opposition to Osborne’s cool, calm and economically focused image.

In his speech in Manchester, Johnson will say: “We must ensure that as we reform welfare and we cut taxes that we protect the hardest working and lowest paid.”

The Tories should protect “shop workers, cleaners, the people who get up in the small hours or work through the night because they have dreams for what their families can achieve”, he will add.

But Johnson’s message today is in stark contrast to his previous comments on inequality.

Back in 2013, the Mayor said that inequality is essential as a means of fostering “the spirit of envy” and he said greed was a “valuable spur to economic activity”.

He also said that the “Gordon Gekkos of London” should display their greed to promote economic growth.

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