Plenty of attention has been given to what future jobs the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, might obtain. But what of his current job?
There has been some synthetic anxiety that if he becomes an MP next year he would find the workload of also being Mayor a great burden. How touching. But I suspect he would cope. Just as Ken Livingstone did when he was elected in 2000 but continued as the MP for Brent East until the general election a year later. Or, for that matter, as David Cameron manages to combine being our Prime Minister with serving as the Member of Parliament for Witney.
It’s all familiar political knockabout. I remember the Conservatives attacking Peter Hain as the “part time Welsh Secretary”. He was also Leader of the House of Commons. Was it seriously felt that he would have been any better as a full time Welsh Secretary? This notion of the labour theory of value is unconvincing.
A more interesting point is, when Londoners go to the polls on Thursday May 5th 2016, what chance will the Conservative candidate have? Who will that candidate be on the ballot paper?
Let us be candid. This will be a huge challenge for any Conservative candidate. In 2012, Boris Johnson – a hugely popular figure put up against the tarnished Ken Livingstone – only won with a margin of three per cent. Then again, in 2007 a third term for Ken Livingstone was regarded as a racing certainty. There was some embarrassing floundering around looking for a celebrity candidate. A low point was the idea of Greg Dyke – who is a socialist. Anyway, having been quietly advised that the contest was unwinnable, Boris plunged in as the Conservative candidate.
Furthermore, there have been some great successes for London under Conservative rule. And who knows what the general political climate will be like in two years time.
Among the Conservative members of the London Assembly both James Cleverley and Andrew Boff are potential candidates. Mr Boff, in particular, strikes me as well placed to cope with the challenges of debates and TV interviews. He is articulate, independent-minded and good humoured.
Then there are the Conservative council leaders in the London boroughs. What about, for example, Lord True, the council leader in Richmond? Or Sir Merrick Cockell, former leader of Kensington and Chelsea?
What about the 28 London Conservative MPs? Could Jo Johnson, the MP for Orpington, be on for a job swap with his brother? Might the Chingford MP Iain Duncan Smith be interested in a new challenge? Or Justine Greening? Or Theresa Villiers? Or Sir Malcolm Rifkind? Or Bob Neill?
Then we have the Deputy Mayors. Here I would draw your attention to the Deputy Mayor, Policing and Crime – Stephen Greenhalgh, the former Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council. I know him well as I am a councillor in that borough. An ambitious, forceful and impatient personality, I think he would be an excellent choice for Mayor of our city. His success in achieving a reduction in crime while also coping with a reduced budget was acknowledged in a recent leading article in The Times(£). That gives him the credibility of a London-wide record of success that I don’t see any of the other potential Conservative candidates being able to match.
Like the incumbent Mayor, Mr Greenhalgh also has the advantage of being his own man. However, he is also a true believer in strong, radical, popular Conservative principles – freedom, aspiration, opportunity. As Mayor, we know that he would want to encourage wealth creation and job opportunities, wider home ownership, higher educational standards, lower taxation and less bureaucracy.
He is the one to watch.