Yesterday’s Standard brought us the news that Labour plan to launch “a full-scale assault on Boris Johnson, labelling him a man with two part-time jobs if he stands for a seat in the House of Commons before quitting as Mayor in 2016.”
Well of course, politicians are entitled to have a pop at their opponents’ perceived weaknesses and failings but this line of attack seems painfully ill-advised.
If Labour had a fully committed candidate, as I argued yesterday that they should have, by the time Boris re-enters Parliament the attack might bring some reward because it’d let the party draw a distinction between its candidate and the incumbent.
But, according to the Standard’s Joe Murphy, the assault is to be led by Sadiq Khan, Labour’s shadow London Minister.
Sadiq, like David Lammy, is one of two Labour MPs intending to defend their Westminster seat in May 2015 and then, according to the briefings, winks and nods, enter the race to become Labour’s candidate for Mayor just a few weeks later.
If Boris is wrong to have stood for re-election to City Hall in 2012 and then seek another post in 2015, how can Labour credibly allow two of its own MPs to stand for re-election next year and then immediately start campaigning for a post outside Parliament?
How would this not, using Labour’s logic, leave the voters of Tooting and Tottenham with part-time MPs? Or, if one of them is selected, the party with a part-time candidate?
If Labour make ‘part-time’ politicians part of the debate they’d better be prepared for the label to be hung around their own candidate’s neck.
And if splitting your time between governing and representing a constituency is the definition of part-time, surely every Cabinet member in the UK, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish parliaments and assemblies is also part-time?
As Ken Livingstone proved, though he’d been ejected from the Labour party so it’s not bound by his precedent, it’s entirely possible to run London and vote in the Commons for an overlapping year.
That seems especially true when you cast your eye over the sitting dates for the Commons and realise MPs don’t have to debate or vote on anything from late July until the start of September, then get a month off for the party conference season, another week in November and a couple off at Christmas.
If those were my working hours, I don’t think I’d be shouting too loudly about part-time politicians.