1 Mar 2012

Boris: I’ll never run for Parliament again

Boris Johnson got to take tea with the Queen in Fortnum and Masons today – one of the perks of the mayoral job. You can see him tonight on Channel 4 News saying that it’s his last big job in politics. He tells me he will not bail out of a second term as Mayor if re-elected to run for Westminster; he will never run for Westminster; and he says he will never run for the leadership of his party.

Ken Livingstone says he has “no doubt” that if Boris was re-elected to the mayoralty he would seek a Commons seat for the 2015 general election.

The furthest Boris Johnson has gone before in ruling out a career beyond City Hall was in an interview with the Evening Standard, where he said “I just want to be clear about one thing, I’m not going to be Prime Minister. Because I want to be mayor of London”.

Here’s the exchange in tonight’s interview:

A: “This is probably the only big job, the last big job anyway I’ll do in British politics … it’s a fantastic job. I love it.”

Q: “You won’t seek to get back into parliament?

A: “I won’t.”

Q: “You’ll never seek the leadership of your party?”

A: “I cannot believe that anybody would offer me the leadership of my party but I certainly won’t be seeking it.”

Q: “You’d have to be in parliament to do that. You wouldn’t run for parliament?

A: “No – I want to be mayor of London”

Q: “You’ll never run for parliament again?

A: “I think that’s now the sixth or possibly the seventh time you’ve asked me that question – and the answer’s no.”

Q: “…everyone thinks you’re building up a constituency amongst the Tory grassroots to challenge one day for the leadership – and there are suggestions even George Osborne thinks the same thing.

A: “…well you know .. I’ve said…”

Q: “Can you reassure him?”

A: “I can totally reassure him. I’ve said what I’ve said.”

David Cameron told his MPs in a meeting last Friday that the mayoral contest is a “binary moment” in UK politics. He believes that a Boris victory – mid-cuts, mid-coalition – in London would convince doubters that there really could be an outright Tory victory at the 2015 general election. Some around Ed Miliband believe that a defeat for Ken Livingstone in London – mid-cuts, mid-coalition – would trigger a whole fresh round of attacks on Ed Miliband’s leadership of the Labour Party.

Boris Johnson has Lynton Crosby, the Australian political svengali, back masterminding his campaign. Expect it to start firing off soon trying to revive memories of the Livingstone mayoralty, portraying it as one long cash-spewing revolutionary party … without the laughs.

Has Ken lost his mojo?

Ken Livingstone says Boris might have the charisma but he’s got the competence. He consistently outscores Boris on appearing “on your side” but will voters be sceptical of the 7 per cent slashed transport bills promise in an age of austerity or will they grab a chance of a discount?

Livingstone has surprised some in the Labour leader’s circle who thought he was showing signs of having lost his mojo – not raising his profile during last year’s riots, for instance. More recently, they think he’s showing some old fire and he thinks they’re treating him much better than the two previous Labour leadership teams he dealt with as Mayor.

The whole thing could come down to turnout. Boris’s team, probably backed by quite a bit more money than Labour can muster, will hope to repeat their achievement of 2008, getting the suburbs to turn out and swing what looks like being a tight contest their way.

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