My post suggesting that, despite all the reasons for not doing so, there might perhaps be something to be said for voting for Boris Johnson as Mayor of London, as some kind of vaccination against a future Conservative Government, attracted quite a lot of criticism in Lib Dem circles. Jo Christie-Smith, for example, made a good critique of this position on her blog (apologies to Jo that for some reason I don’t understand Wordpress won’t let me link to her blog, but if you put her name into Google, it comes up pretty quick!).
In fact I wasn’t firmly saying that I thought anti-Conservatives should necessarily vote for Johnson, just highlighting the dilemma – and for the record, my own second preference on Thursday went to Livingstone.
I remain firmly of the view that a Boris Johnson London mayoralty is bad news for London – my concern limited only by the fact that the Mayor of London’s powers are in fact pretty limited. Talk of the job being that of ‘running London’, while perhaps understandable, are very wide of the mark. Even of those aspects of running London which lie in the public sector’s hands, few lie with the Mayor – he has no influence at all on health, for example, almost none on schools, not much on the green agenda (despite Ken’s generally admirable efforts to expand its power in this area), very little on waste (despite Ken’s more unsuccessful efforts here too), and very little even such London bete noires as parking. Public transport, policing, some aspects of housing, and major planning issues are the only really important areas the Mayor has real control of. And even in these areas he has to find agreement with a multitude of government departments, local councils and various other bodies (even if you live here you may well never have heard of the Government Office for London or GOL, but it is not too far from the truth to say that this government quasi-department exists largely in order to prevent the Mayor and 33 Boroughs from doing things that central government doesn’t really want them to do).
On the question of whether a Boris Mayoralty is good for the greater Conservative cause or not, it is fairly clear that the Conservative hierarchy, if not quite sharing my views precisely on the merits or otherwise of Boris Johnson, did have some concern about how he might perform as Mayor, and indeed how he was already showing as the Conservative candidate. The role of Australian Conservative spinmeister Lynton Crosby in sorting out the Conservative Mayoral campaign, and specifically sitting on Johnson, has been fairly widely discussed.
Boris’s first few pronouncements since his election confirm that he has behind him a strong team who are determined to control what he says pretty closely. Read the rest of this entry »