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Picture 17 Today's Spectator can rightly be called the "Boris Johnson issue", containing as it does a selection of pieces about its esteemed former editor, timed to coincide with the impending first year anniversary of his arrival in City Hall as Mayor of London.

And of the various contributions, Ross Clark makes an especially important point. Headlined "The only tax-cutting Tory in town", he notes that the Mayor's "greatest achievement' so far has been to make a real terms cut in the amount of money he is costing London council tax payers by freezing the Greater London Authority precept.

"In a recession, when income from the congestion charge has fallen sharply and energy costs are high, freezing the GLA precept is a remarkable achievement which deserves to be better acknowledged… There is no smoke and mirrors about Boris’s tax freeze. It really has been funded by spending cuts… which have elicited virtually no audible response. "

Amen to that – and I trust David Cameron and George Osborne will ensure that the party nationally takes time to look at how he did it.

But wait, elsewhere in the Boris-fest, his biographer Andrew Gimson suggests that at the mention of Boris's name, Messrs Cameron and Osborne "make special little wriggly faces of disgust", not least because of his outspoken opposition to Labour's income tax rises (repeated today in the Evening Standard on the 50p rate)

He links this to Boris's perceived ambitions:

"The situation is worse for Mr Osborne. Mr Cameron has privately implied that he will serve only two terms as prime minister, by which time it is possible that Mr Johnson will have completed two successful terms as Mayor. This conjuncture can be dismissed as idle speculation, but since politicians spend much of their lives in idle speculation of their own prospects, it is a realistic guide to Mr Osborne’s situation. He is bound to wonder whether, after the Herculean task of sorting out the public finances, he will find his due reward, the prime ministership, snatched from him by Mr Johnson."

Andrew has long believed that Boris harbours ambitions for the highest office, and Evening Standard editor Geordie Greig joins in the speculation today. He directly asked Boris the question in interview and was given the reply:

"In the immortal words of Michael Heseltine I cannot foresee the circumstances in which I would be called upon to serve in that office. If like Cincinatus. I were to be called from my plough, then obviously it would be wrong of me not to help out. But the truth is I have a massive, massive job, an intellectual emotional challenge that I am hugely enjoying. I do not spend any time scribbling on the back of envelopes working out how I could be Prime Minister because it is not on my agenda, it really isn't."

Make of that what you will, although in the same interview the Mayor is also curiously cautious about discussing running for a second term at City Hall:

"If by the end of next year I feel we are restarting greatly to make a difference on youth crime and the alienation of youth then I am going to think about it. I will think 'are we on the right track?'" So he could be a one time mayor? "Nothing is excluded," said Boris.

I would have thought it was inconceivable that Boris wouldn't run again. Even if he is harbouring higher ambitions, I suggest that it would behove him to concentrate on doing a good job of sorting out the capital first.

12.30pm Update: The Guardian reports a denial form the mayor's spokesman of the suggestion that he may not seek a second term: "Boris absolutely loves the job and he had every intention of standing
in the 2012 election. He's particularly keen to be the mayor who hosts
the Olympic games but he is taking nothing for granted."

Jonathan Isaby

84 comments for: Boris Johnson: Tax cutter and… future Prime Minister?

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