In May Sadiq Khan secured the largest personal mandate ever seen in this country so it’s disappointing to see the Conservatives foist an unaccountable Minister for London on the city.
After surviving the restoration of London government, the post eventually and thankfully became vacant in 2008 and remained dormant all the way through Boris Johnson’s two terms at City Hall when minsters and secretaries of state dealt direct with the capital’s mayor.
Yet over the weekend freshly installed Prime Minister Theresa May decided that interaction between Westminster and the Mayor could be improved by appointing Gavin Barwell as the part-time minister for London.
Let’s be clear – had Zac Goldsmith won in May, there would not now be a Minister for London. He, like Boris, would have been left to get on with the job without a ministerial appointee peering over his shoulder.
Reviving the post risks making May and the Tory Government look like sore losers – there is no decision or policy initiative which Barwell can oversee which would not best be dealt with by direct discussions between more senior ministers and Sadiq.
There’s a risk that instead of Sadiq and his officials continuing to deal with the decision makers in, for example, the DfT they suddenly find themselves expected to lobby alongside Barwell.
To me it looks very much like this position has been revived, in part at least, to allow the Tories to claim a slice of the credit for London’s continued success plus any big new initiatives so that they have a handy roll call of brags ready for the 2020 City Hall election.
If he’s not careful, our mayor risks finding himself sharing credit in Government press releases and resulting media coverage with the holder of the most unnecessary and disposable minister in all of Westminster.
And unless it’s suddenly announced that Barwell’s brief will be to work on a new devolution settlement for the capital, we’re all entitled to question whether a Government which thinks a Minister for London is necessary in 2016 really has any intent of handing over extra and meaningful powers and spending ability to the capital’s Labour mayor.