London and housing benefit: Boris v Dave
It's been a long time coming. The signs were all there. It was inevitable once he decided to run again for mayor. Boris has decided to confront Dave head on.
This morning the Mayor of London has condemned planned cuts in housing benefit as leading to "Kosovo style social cleansing". He told the BBC that:
"You are not going to see, on my watch...thousands of families being evicted from the place where they've been living and where they have put down roots. That is not what Londoners want to see. It's not what we're going to accept."
This just a day after the prime minister said he would not back down from plans to cut housing benefit and two days after his deputy, Nick Clegg, angrily rejected Labour attacks on "cleansing" as "outrageous" and
"deeply offensive to people who have witnessed ethnic cleansing in other parts of the world".
What makes this political battle so potentially explosive is that both Boris and Dave believe that they are speaking up for the people, both are using housing benefit to make a wider political point - Boris is "standing up for London", Dave is "standing up for fairness" - and both will find it very hard to back down.