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Ten observations about Boris' re-election hopes

By Tim Montgomerie

Photo Will Boris seek re-election? The question rears it's head again because of this morning's front page Sunday Times (£) story.

The Sunday Times' Isabel Oakeshott suggests Boris might quit if he cannot get a good enough deal from the Treasury. Working the phones today I can find little to back up what appears to be a typical Sunday newspaper story. All newspapers increasingly personalise, speculate and exaggerate. Sunday papers in particular. And Sundays in August even more. A spokesman for the Mayor of London issued this statement:

"Boris is not threatening to resign. He is quite confident of a good settlement for London."

So what do we know? Here's my assessment.

Boris winning again won't be easy. He won election when the Tories were riding high across Britain in the polls. He'll be seeking a second term when the cuts will be biting deep and Labour will be urging London voters to give Cameron a bloody nose.

London isn't the most hospitable territory for the Tories. Despite some excellent candidates the results at the General Election from Hammersmith to Tooting were disappointing.

BorisCameron Cameron knows Boris is one of the few Tories who can win in London. Perhaps the only one. He won't want either to have to find an alternative candidate nor a bad result in London. Reports of tensions between Downing St and City Hall are not non-existent but they are exaggerated. Cameron will help Boris as much as he can.

Cameron and George Osborne will give London the best financial deal they can. It will be a tough settlement but Boris will be able to say that he fought for a good deal for London and got a better deal than anyone else could.

Boris may not get 100% of the project funding but Crossrail, housing and policing appear to be his priorities. In order to get re-elected he needs to be able to proclaim to London that he fought the Treasury and won a few important projects for London.

Boris could still more to cut inefficiency in London. As Harry Phibbs, ConHome local government editor, has argued he should have cut deeper and earlier into budgets like Transport for London.

Conservatives at every level need to understand that some tension between the Mayor of London and the government isn't just inevitable but politically healthy. We all need to understand that Boris will win if he's seen as London's champion, not if he's seen primarily as a Conservative.

Boris hasn't got a transformational record but he has real accomplishments. He's frozen his part of council tax by clamping down on costs. Improved London's policing. Stopped the extension of the congestion charge. Brought Olympic costs under control after they had started running away under Livingstone. Banned alcohol on the Tube. Introduced Boris Bikes. Harry Phibbs has listed 100 achievements. Some doubted he could run London when he stood last time. Only the most partisan commentator could question his basic competence today.

Ken Livingstone is likely to beat Oona King to the Labour nomination. Red Ken should not be underestimated but do Londoners want to go back to the recipe of high spending, high taxing that they rejected in 2008? He was part of the reason Britain and London is in this mess.

Boris&FlagBoris should declare fairness for London as a crucial campaign theme. He's dipped his toe in the water on the Scottish question but he should go much further. The man who celebrates St Georges Day with such flair should become the champion of a new cross-UK funding deal that (1) ensures the motor of the UK economy keeps more of its wealth and (2) that the Mayor's office is able to afford its own solutions to the big housing, policing and poverty problems of London. Ultimately, Londoners will keep Boris in power if he is seen to fight as hard for them as Alex Salmond and Scottish Labour fight for their voters.

 After Fraser Nelson speculated that Boris wouldn't run again I argued that he would. A good lunch rides on which of the two of us is right! Boris is addressing a ConHome rally at the Party Conference (info here). That will be another important moment to judge the Mayor of London's record and future.


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