Two of the Conservative politicians hoping to replace Boris Johnson as mayor say their party can retain control of City Hall next year provided members pick a candidate with a clear vision for improving the lives of Londoners.
Speaking on Saturday at a hustings organised by the Conservative Way Forward group, London Assembly member and mayoral hopeful Andrew Boff urged members to look beyond “the marketing ploys” and examine prospective Mayors’ policies on council tax, investment in transport infrastructure and their vision for policing.
Mr Boff is one of seven contenders campaigning to become the Conservative’s 2016 mayoral candidate and is up against Richmond MP Zac Goldmsith, London’s deputy mayor for policing Stephen Greenhalgh, footballer Sol Campbell, MEP Syed Kamall, businessman Ivan Massow and Bromley councillor Simon Fawthrop.
He told the audience at Saturday’s event that the party should pick a candidate who has “experience of local government…who know how you pull the levers and how the levers work” rather than the person with the biggest profile.
His comments were a clear swipe at Goldmsith and Campbell, neither of whom were present at the event.
Boff, a former leader of Hillingdon Council, has previously suggested that whoever is selected as the candidate will see their profile boosted by the resulting media coverage, making name recognition a lesser priority than having policies which chime with Londoners, including non-Conservative voters whose second preferences will be needed to achieve victory.
His comments were echoed by Mr Greenhalgh who pointed to his own record at Hammersmith and Fulham council which he won from Labour in 2006 “by being absolutely clear what we were going to do for the residents”.
Greenhalgh said: “We got the votes of the people on the council estates and middle incomes because we were very clear they should not be paying twice the level of council tax as the people over Putney Bridge in Wandsworth.
He added that victory wasn’t achieved “because we were Conservative, it’s because we promised what the residents wanted and we put them first.”
The Conservative candidate is being chosen via a primary in which all party members in London, plus supporters paying a one-off £1 registration fee, will be able to vote. The winning candidate will be announced in September.