Friends of Zac Goldsmith have said it. And now Syed Kamall, interviewed for this site by Andrew Gimson, has said it too. There should be no shortlist for the Conservative selection for the Party’s candidate for the London Mayoralty. As this site has also argued, all the main candidates should have an opportunity to put their case directly to the people of London – that’s to say, Goldsmith, Kamall himself, Andrew Boff, Stephen Greenhalgh, Ivan Massow and Phillipa Roe.
There is now an extra reason for cancelling the cull. It is unlikely that Jeremy Corbyn will win the Labour leadership – for all the impact of his candidacy on the contest, which we in the media are adding to, and despite a YouGov poll today showing him ahead. But he may: who knows? And even if he doesn’t, it will presumably be very hard now to keep him out of the Shadow Cabinet. It will be a case of: Corbyn is dead (sort of) – long live Corbynism!
In short, Labour may not have escaped its present troubles by next spring. Corbyn will either be at Labour’s top table, which will cause ructions not seen in the party since the 1980s, or he won’t be…which will also cause ructions not seen in the party since the 1980s. This prospect opens up a new opportunity for the Conservatives. London is a Labour-leaning city. But sensible Toryism can beat left-wing Labourism in it. If you doubt it, ask Ken Livingstone – or, even more to the point, Boris Johnson.
It thus makes sense to bring as many people as possible into the Open Primary that the Party has settled on for its selection – to make it the biggest of big tents. An open list of six candidates is more likely to do this than a skewed list of three, with one proviso: that all the former are in the Conservative mainstream, beliefs-wise, which is already the case. CCHQ protests strongly that there will be no skew – that there is no fix to ensure a final three of Goldsmith, Kamall and Roe.
The Party has a means to hand of proving it. We accept that it is unlikely that the shortlist plan will be torn up. But the committee of activists that meets on Saturday to determine it – and about which CCHQ has been so secretive – has a chance to show that it can take a lead. It can run a different final three from that forecast. Or, far better, it can extend the shortlist, if there is an unwillingness to scrap it. More and more, it looks as though a test for the process is whether or not Stephen Greenhalgh is in the primary.