Recent discussions on the subject of potential Conservative Mayoral candidates have drawn comments from a small number who believe that what they see as an absence of a ‘serious’ candidate allows them to instead contest the 2008 election on the basis of a referendum on the position itself.
Conservative Home reports that in answer to this suggestion comes the candidacy of Dr Lee Rotherham. According to CH Rotherham “will fight on a campaign of binning Labourâ€™s extra tier of London government.”
It seems a safe bet that the selection panel who are to vet and interview the hopefuls will not put Dr Lee on the final list of candidates Londoners are to be asked to vote on. However let’s for a moment imagine that a Conservative candidate opposed to the continued existence was somehow selected.
He or she is likely to be a lone voice, Labour’s support for a Mayor can be taken for granted and there’s no evidence that the Liberal Democrats or Greens are likely to campaign for abolition. The prospect of a cross party coalition against a Conservative proposal to abolish London Government has a certain historical resonance, Londoners could safely expect a revival of the ‘Say no to no say’ campaign which opposed abolition of the GLC.
Much as some Conservative voters may wish otherwise, there is no widespread dislike of the current Mayor or the Greater London Authority. The Congestion Charge, or the “Ken tax” as some Tory hopefuls insist on calling it, has not suffered the widespread civil disobedience which opponents predicted.
Supporters of certain potential Mayoral candidates insist that the Congestion Charge lacks public support, however in the real world all the evidence points the other way. In 2004 Steve Norris promised to “scrap the congestion charge scheme on Day One of becoming mayor” – offering a real choice to Londoners. A clear majority voted to retain Ken and the charge.
Unlike the 1980’s version, the public’s views on ‘Say no to no say part 2’ would be heard at the ballot box. In a race where second preference votes are the decider, isolation on such a major issue offers little prospect for Conservative electoral success.