When Londoners gather to elect a Mayor next year our final choice – as it has in all but one of the contests to date – will be between the Labour and Conservative candidates.
Unlike voters electing to devolved bodies in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland we don’t have an option of a regional party committed purely to serving the needs of our city.
Liberal Democrats, Greens and even UKIP may have managed to win seats on the London Assembly, but none has the breadth and level of support needed for their candidate to make it into the final mayoral run-off.
And no matter how well meaning they are, or impressive the contacts they have, it’s all but impossible for any independent candidate to recreate the circumstances which saw a party-less Ken Livingstone elected in 2000.
So for the fourth term in a row, and like some bizarre throwback to the parliamentary politics of old, London’s next mayor will almost certainly represent Labour or the Conservatives.
Of course, we know from Ken and Boris’s colourful stewardships of City Hall that wearing a red or blue rosette on polling day doesn’t necessary make you a dull party place-man.
But at the exact moment British voters find a taste for politicians and parties outside the mainstream, Labour’s field of hopeful mayors is overwhelmingly dominated by current and former Westminster figures.
Of the six declared runners to date, only transport expert and journalist Christian Wolmar offers an alternative to the career politicians which the public increasingly professes disdain for.
Unlike his rivals, Wolmar didn’t start the race to become Labour’s candidate with a team of local activists, fundraisers and supporters already in place.
Instead, he’s has to work hard to assemble an entirely new team and to build confidence and credibility among potential backers through a series of wide-ranging Twitter Q&A’s and appearances before local campaigners, special interest groups and, crucially, local Labour parties.
Labour will select its candidate via a ballot of party members and registered supporters, but to get on the ballot paper each candidate needs to be nominated by enough local parties to get onto the long-list of candidates from which party bosses will select those to be put before the selectorate.
Clearly no-one’s going to tell a sitting or former MP that they’re not up to representing the party in London, so Diane Abbott, David Lammy, Tessa Jowell, Gareth Thomas and Sadiq Khan are all pretty much guaranteed a place on that final list.
With the party’s selection timetable giving the victor just 7 months to pull together their policies, campaign and team it won’t be a surprise if it ultimately picks a familiar, big name as its candidate in the hope they can make up for lost time.
But Wolmar is the sort of fresh face, break with the past figure that many Labour voices are demanding in the parallel race to find a new party leader, and also happens to be an expert in one of the largest areas of mayoral responsibility.
At a time when Labour is desperate to convince that it understands politics is changing, it would be an act of folly to deny him a place on the short-list and rob those picking a candidate of a viable alternative to the Westminster voices jostling for the Mayoralty.