Tony Devenish is London Assembly Member for Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, and the City of Westminster.
I have recently written about the issues and tactics as we enter the most important few months’ for Conservatives in London in more than a generation.
Thursday 3rd May 2018 – just 18 weeks’ from New Year’s Day – the date when 32 London Boroughs go to the polls – is our chance to demonstrate that civic Conservatism works Borough by Borough rather than hard Left Momentum.
CCHQ’s new London unit is a very welcome development. I go into Christmas with my morale at the highest level this year. Note to media – not everyone is obsessed with Brexit nor Trump.
But there is another huge job we London Conservatives need to start thinking about over Christmas – who is going to fill Boris Johnson’s shoes as a credible Conservative alternative Mayoral Candidate to beat Labour’s Sadiq Khan in May 2020?
We must learn the lessons from the last 17 years’ of the GLA’s existence. The less than ideal, long drawn out way that past candidates have “emerged”. Neither CCHQ nor the national Party Leadership “headhunted” credible candidates until far too close to a given Mayor / GLA Election for selection by the London Party members.
Indications that the “start gun” for the 2020 candidate will be fired straight after May’s 2018’s Borough elections shows Greg Hands MP and Paul Scully MP appreciate the lead time needed to build momentum to “kick Khan’s butt”.
In the past, early Conservative “front runners” were often anyone who wanted their 30 seconds of fame.
Sadiq Khan is eminently beatable with the right candidate. Khan is an ex junior Minister lightweight from the fag-end of the Gordon Brown Government. Khan has set a course of direction which will leave our City poorer if we Conservatives fail to remove him from serving a second or even third four year term. The Mayor is building (at most) a few thousand homes a year – not the 65,000 his own draft London Plan promises.
Khan’s financial mismanagement (due to him being in hoc to the Unions) means he has cancelled tube upgrades which will Back-to-the-Future the 1990s “Misery Line” overcrowding – hurting business growth. His oversight of the Met Police has meant stations closing and borough command mergers which shame public consultations. It is a “car crash” waiting to happen – at least we have our Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to mitigate the latter.
I will leave others to identify candidates – I have asked everyone I meet this question – resulting in much scratching of heads….
In my view the right candidate has to have three qualifications:
1. A Dick Whittington “upwardly mobile” life story- to inspire Londoners. We need the Reagan /Thatcher theme of sunlit uplands positivity to be conveyed. A Leader of people. Ideally someone who has managed a budget of hundreds (or at least tens) of millions and can motivate people of all backgrounds. David Cameron’s abortive idea to parachute in ex BBC Greg Dyke as a Tory-Lib Dem Mayoral candidate pre-Boris was in part a good idea – stretch the Conservative brand – but not a Lib Dem BBC Quangocrat…
2. An existing media profile with emotional intelligence and a rhinoceros skin. Make no mistake, politics is a dirty pursuit – everyone is a critic. The candidate must be able to talk to the LBC radio audience in tabloid English. Is there anyone in business (post the ex Marks and Spencer Stuart Rose EU disaster) who would risk running for Mayor ?
3. An outstanding work ethic – some past candidates have recoiled from an “un-paid CEO level job”. That’s public service. Two years’ of breakfast with business leaders , lunches/dinners with community leaders (Monday -Thursday minimum). You can have Friday night off. A candidate has to be fully up to speed on a huge variety of issues (or expect to suffer accordingly). Minimum 12-14 hour day with half days’ each Saturday /Sunday (90 hour + weeks’ during the last six months). 7am ice cold tube drops and 10am/3pm door knocking in the rain.
Merry Christmas to all Con Home readers. Do contact your London Assembly Members as we strive to drill holes (metaphorically) in Sadiq Khan before our next Mayoral Candidate rides to Londoners’ rescue to defeat Khan and demonstrate that Corbyn has peaked.