A YouGov poll of Londoners commissioned by the public affairs firm PLMR had some interesting findings about the qualities suited for the next Mayor of London. (I can’t see the poll online anywhere yet but I have been sent the results.)
Respondents were asked how important it is whether a future Mayor is a high profile celebrity of TV personality. An overwhelming majority (82 per cent) said it was not important, with more than half (55 per cent) saying it was not at all important.
When asked whether it was more important to have been an MP already or to have had Local Government experience in London, the latter came out most strongly, with more than three-quarters saying London experience was fairly or very important.
Opinion of whether having been an MP already was important produced a more divided response. 46 per cent said it was, while 45 per cent said it wasn’t.
The positive attitude towards local government experience is good news for Conservative contenders Andrew Boff (a London Assembly member and former Leader of Hillingdon Council) and Stephen Greenhalgh (the Deputy Mayor for Policing and a former Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council).
It might encourage Sir Robin Wales, the directly elected Labour Mayor of Newham to seek an upgrade to the whole city via the Labour nomination.
The milder enthusiasm for MPs would be (mildly) discouraging for Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP for Richmond Park (who hasn’t ruled out standing). Also for the potential Labour candidates Sadiq Khan (the Shadow Lord Chancellor whose enthusiasm for the Mayoralty appears to assume a Labour defeat at the General Election denying him the chance to be the real Lord Chancellor) as well as Diane Abbott, Dame Tessa Jowell and David Lammy (although Abbott was a Westminster City councillor back in the 1980s).
The resistance to celebrity will be discouraging for Sol Campbell and Ivan Massow among the Conservative potential nominees.
Not that there should be a ban on celebrities. Ronald Reagan was an actor but as US President he won the Cold War. His political beliefs were clearly strong. When he stood for President he had earlier experience as Governor of California.
You could argue that the incumbent Mayor of London Boris Johnson is a celebrity. Anyone who has been campaigning with him will have noticed the pop star style excitement his appearance induces. But Boris is a staunch Conservative of long standing – as a politician and journalist. He is a Conservative first and a celebrity second.
The point is that Conservatives should not select a Mayoral candidate who is a celebrity just because they happen to be a celebrity. If they do so imagining that would reflect the wishes of the voters it would be a clear misinterpretation.
Equal rights should apply for celebrities – but not positive discrimination.