According to the Mail, Boris is poised to announce his return to Parliament at the next General Election, leaving him with an overlapping year during which he’ll serve at both City Hall and in the Commons.
If true, it’ll bring a welcome end to the speculation about his future ambitions and allow the Conservative party to start selecting a Mayoral candidate for 2016.
It’ll also prove the folly of Labour’s decision to put off their own selection until late 2015.
If Labour had a fully committed candidate in place on the day Boris re-entered Parliament they could be rushed in front of the media every time something went wrong or a reaction was needed.
The simple, blunt, but potentially effective message would be: “I’m already here speaking up for Londoners while Boris is in the team rooms of Westminster looking for his next job, not doing the one he’s paid for.”
And candidate Lammy, Adonis, Khan, Wolmar or Jowell would have a whole year to set out their offering to Londoners and raise their profile.
Instead Labour’s would-be Mayors look destined to spend next summer telling party members – and the few Londoners who wander into their primary – why their internal rivals aren’t up to leading the capital.
For a great chunk of the period Boris looks set to be sharing his time between two jobs, Labour will lack a single, coherent voice of opposition and be unable to put forward an authoritative alternative vision for London.
It is the worst possible situation for a major party to find itself in and it stems from the arrogant assumption of victory I’ve previously commented on.
Talk about Boris’s future inevitably brings claims that he’ll have to cause a by-election at City Hall if he’s to pursue the Tory leadership, but this isn’t actually the case.
He could step down in November 2015 without causing a contest, leaving the Deputy Mayor of London – a post any London Assembly member can occupy – running the city until the May 2016 election.
If the Tories selected a serving Assembly member, someone personable, smart and likeable such as James Cleverly, as their candidate, Boris could appoint them deputy and step-down next November, leaving his would-be successor doing the job for 6 months.
Boris could easily defend the decision to allow Londoners to test out their wannabe next Mayor ahead of the election as the principled, honest thing to do.
And in these days of voter apathy, I suspect the number of Londoners who cared about Boris’s early departure enough to hold a grudge against his party would be massively outnumbered by the legions simply relieved to avoid another trip to the ballot box.