Over 1,500 members voted in the most recent survey of the ConservativeHome Members' Panel but only a fraction - a little more than 200 - volunteered a preferred candidate to take on Ken Livingstone for the London Mayoralty. Given this small sample the post that follows should be taken with a healthy pinch of salt - in a primary election in which there are only, as yet, two declared candidates...
Panelists were asked to volunteer names rather than choose from a list. Once candidates are declared we'll go back to the Panel and retrieve more meaningful results. But this is what we learnt from approximately 220 Tory members:
Seb Coe was the clear favourite. 48 Conservative members volunteered the name of the Tory peer, former MP, two times Olympic gold medallist and Chairman of the Organising Committee for the 2012's London Games. Baron Coe has already ruled himself out of the race, however. So, who's left?
Of those likely to run Steve Norris was top of the poll but only with 22 votes. Given that he has been candidate twice before he might have been expected to win more than 10% of the votes cast. Seven people volunteered to vote for ‘Anyone but Steve Norris’ - perhaps remembering the controversies surrounding his connections with Jarvis during the last mayoral election. If Steve does choose to stand, however, his easy charm and liberal outlook will make him a strong contender amongst many Londoners. BUT - reputed to be earning hundreds of thousands of pounds - the former transport minister may find it difficult to afford a third mayoral bid...
The candidate who excites CCHQ is former Met Chief John Stevens. Lord Stevens won the support of 20 members of the ConservativeHome Panel. He has refused to rule out a bid after ConservativeHome broke the possibility of a bid from the man that the News of the World styles as 'The Chief'.
Also winning 20 votes is Michael Portillo. The former MP for Kensington & Chelsea might succeed in reaching across the party aisle but might have trouble motivating the Conservative base. Just the mention of his name is enough to boil the blood of many traditional Tories.
The Tory MP to win most backing is shadow higher education minister Boris Johnson. Although he does not represent a London constituency the cycling former Editor of The Spectator won the support of a dozen panellists. A bid to be Mayor of London would certainly be more promising than a bid to be Liverpool's Mayor!
London MEP Syed Kamall - who narrowly missed out on the Bromley & Chislehurst seat - won a very respectable nine votes.
Nick Ferrari was first suggested by Iain Dale as a candidate and five people named him as their choice. The Sony Award-winning presenter of LBC's breakfast show last week confirmed to the Telegraph's Spy column that he is contemplating seeking the Conservative nomination:
"So many Londoners are fed up with what is happening to our city under Ken Livingstone, it's time for someone to come in and turn it around," he told [Spy] yesterday. "But if I stood, I'd have to give up the radio show - so I've got a lot of thinking to do in the next couple of weeks."Ferrari - who is quoted by bookmaker Ladbrokes at 4-1 to become mayor - would stand on a Right-wing populist platform, including the reintroduction of Routemaster buses and a massive cull of bureaucrats at City Hall."
People registering four votes: Richard Barnes AM, Nicholas Boles (head of the influential Policy Exchange think tank and the modernisers’ choice), Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson and Angie Bray AM (pictured and who recently wrote for ConservativeHome about the congestion charge).
People registering three votes: Andrew Boff (who stood against Steve Norris in 1999 but lost his council seat this May), blogger Iain Dale, environmentalist Zac Goldsmith, the excellent Margot James (who has already ruled herself out), the pro-hunting gay millionaire Ivan Massow (who defected to Labour and then came back), former leader of Westminster Council Simon Milton, Andrew Pelling MP and Carol ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ Thatcher.
People registering two votes: Victoria Borwick (who launched her campaign yesterday), Ken Clarke MP (quite an interesting idea), Warwick Lightfoot (the first to launch a campaign), Wandsworth's Edward Lister, Nikki Page (thwarted during the last selection process) and Andrew Rosindell MP.
People registering one vote: John Bowis, David Burrowes MP, James Cleverly (a ConservativeHome favourite), Brian Coleman AM, Roger Evans AM (who opposed Steve Norris last time round), Dr Liam Fox, Derek Laud of Big Brother fame, Ray Lewis of the Eastside Young Leaders' Academy (an ideal running mate?), Bob Neill MP (because he needs another job!?), Chris Patten, Amanda Platell, Jeff Randall MP, John Redwood MP, Jonathan Ross, Dominic Schofield (who achieved one of the biggest swings to the Tories at the 2005 election), Alan 'you're fired' Sugar, Lord Tebbit, Theresa Villiers MP and EastEnders' Barbara Windsor.
I'm holding one suggestion back. I'll publish it tomorrow...