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Paper Monitor

11:19 UK time, Friday, 29 October 2010

James Bolam and Rodney Bewes as Terry and Bob in Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads

Friends and rivals: Boris and David

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There are few things that Paper Monitor enjoys more than a good love-hate relationship.

So the front page of today's Times brightened an otherwise dreary morning in Monitor Towers.

"Boris puts coalition in a spin with Kosovo jibe," is the headline, summing up London Mayor Mr Johnson's comments that "Kosovo-style social cleansing of London" - predicted as a result of the government's housing benefit reforms - would not happen "on my watch".

David Cameron, the paper reports, was not happy:

Aides made clear the Prime Minister's disapproval even after the mayor tried to ease the row with a statement claiming that his remarks had been taken out of context.

"The Prime Minister doesn't agree with what Boris Johnson has said or indeed the way he said it."

The story would not be so fascinating were it not for the ongoing soap opera of the pair's relations.

Paper Monitor likes to view it as an old Etonian remake of the Likely Lads, with Boris the cantankerous Terry, continually at odds with the PM's straight-man, Bob.

However, a nagging need for each other keeps the pair from an all-out split - though Paper Monitor imagines they make up over something a little more refined than a brown ale.

Today's sketch writers, cartoonists and political analysts have a field day.

Analysis from the Times's Fiona Hamilton notes: "Mr Johnson has a long-standing rivalry with Mr Cameron and, deny it as he may, his desire to become Tory leader is an open secret... Mr Johnson clearly sees a chance to score valuable points."

Meanwhile, its cartoon pictures the London Mayor at Hyperbolics Anonymous, with the caption: "My name is Boris and I'm addicted to overstatement."

The Daily Mail's leader column says Mr Johnson's "silly remark" was regrettable.
It suggests he should be directing his "undoubted eloquence" to arguing the case for overhauling a welfare state that "gives a better lifestyle to benefits claimants than to hard-working families".

The Daily Telegraph, however has the prime minister "scolding" the mayor.

Mr Cameron's rebuke - via his spokesman - constituted "an unprecedented slapdown to Boris Johnson", according to political correspondent Rosa Prince.

Meanwhile, the Independent sums up the relationship:

Some Tories joke that they share two qualities above all: they are hugely ambitious, and also incredulous at each other's success... Downing Street insiders are still able to chuckle about "Boris being Boris". But the joke is wearing paper thin.

Paper Monitor suspects the pair will patch things up. But if the British public find all this political intrigue wearing similarly thin, then the Daily Star can ride to the rescue.

"Jordan shock: I still love my Pete," its headline screams. Katie Price has, apparently, plunged her marriage to Alex Reid into crisis by confessing undying love for her ex, Peter Andre.

And so, Paper Monitor concludes, a little squabble over welfare policy is put squarely into context.

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