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Will Boris duck re-election? And will Peter Mandelson be his opponent?

BorisShield The two questions are raised by Fraser Nelson in his News of the World column, and distilled at Coffee House.

Fraser writes that Boris is "highly unlikely" to stand again - eyeing, instead, the prize of Ten Downing Street (despite Boris' claims to the contrary).

The best reason Fraser gives is the obvious one: "Boris is up for re-election in May 2012, by which time the Tories will be making Irish-style spending cuts - and be hated for it. Whoever stands as Labour candidate has a pretty good chance of victory. And being the most powerful figure in the party."

[I emphasise "Irish-style". Does Fraser know something we don't about 5%+ cuts in public sector pay?]

If Mandelson does stand he'll have to beat Ken Livingstone who wants a third crack at London's top political job.

I can't quarrel strongly with Fraser but, on balance, I think Boris will stand again...

  1. By all accounts he is enjoying the job.
  2. I think he'll want to be Mayor for the 2012 Olympics (which take place immediately after the moment he is up for re-election).
  3. In the absence of a strong alternative Tory candidate there'll be enormous pressure from the party for him to stand again.
  4. His chances of ever becoming PM will not be helped if he is seen to have walked away from a re-election challenge. Tory members don't yet think he is Prime Ministerial material. That is most likely to change after eight successful years of governing London (not four).
  5. The backdrop of an unpopular Tory government in Westminster will make his task hard but I expect Boris Johnson to be increasingly independent-minded. Watch him fight for Crossrail against a Tory Treasury. Watch him fight for a fairer share of the taxes paid by Londoners to stay in London (not Scotland). Watch him tack to the left with a defence of "a living wage" and to the right with a defence of the City. He'll style himself as as independent of a Tory government as Ken Livingstone styled himself as independent of Tony Blair. He certainly has the charisma to do it.
  6. Boris' re-election task will be made easier if there is a bloody Labour primary battle between Mandelson and Livingstone.

Jo Johnson's recent selection showed the potency of the Johnson brand. Boris can walk into any safe seat in the country but he might as well wait until 2016 to do that.

Tim Montgomerie


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