Last week this summer’s worst kept secret was out of the bag. Boris Johnson intends to run for Parliament in 2016, although he has no ambitions to be Prime Minister – possibly next summer’s worst kept secret.
The decision will prompt speculation and uncertainty at City Hall where the Mayor, like his predecessor, has imprinted his personality on the organisation.
Useful debate centres around possible successors and the real potential offered by a senior minister with direct experience of running London. Less useful is the accusation that the Mayor will become part time.
A recent poll showed that 60% of voters – and 59% of Londoners – think Boris should stand down from City Hall if he returns to Parliament. The result might have been very different if the question had mentioned the price tag for a by election – estimated at £12 million. Furthermore with the Mayor’s salary reduced by two thirds if Boris stays on for 2015/16 this starts to look like a good deal for the capital.
With the next London Election in May 2016 a by election winner in mid 2015 would scarcely have time to find their way to the 8th floor office and appoint their team before running into the purdah period that prohibits much of the activity of City Hall during the early 2016 campaign. The voters would have little to judge the new incumbent on before they were on the doorstep seeking a new mandate.
With local councils, the GLA, Europe and Westminster all operating on different electoral cycles the phenomenon of politicians holding two jobs during periods of overlap is here to stay and will affect all parties – particularly the smaller ones like UKIP and the Greens where the talent pool is more restricted.
Only PR style list systems enable post holders to be replaced by the next person down the ladder without a by election. Tottenham MP David Lammy took advantage of this when he stepped aside only two months after his election to the London Assembly to take up his Westminster seat.
However whilst politicians retain constituency links temporary dual mandates are here to stay. Ambitious office seekers who make cheap capital from them risk being damaged when their political boomerang returns.
Roger Evans is a Conservative member of the London Assembly representing the Havering and Redbridge constituency, and Chair of the Assembly.