Once it became evident that someone the chap in the street had actually heard of was willing to go forward, the Conservatives closed nominations for their 2008 London mayoral candidate last Monday.
Former Met Commissioner John Stevens, rubber-lipped former Defence Sec Michael Portillo, ex-PM ‘Sir’ John Major, sacked BBC D-G Greg Dyke and, erm, Nick Ferrari had all resisted the overtures of David Cameron for some reason best known to themselves and their future careers.
Two-time Livingstone challenger Steve Norris was stood waiting in the wings, ready for an 11 th hour heroic rescue of the process, but wisely chickened out when the Boris bandwagon looked likely to flatten him. An early leaked shortlist went something like this:
1. Boris Johnson
2. Alexander de Pfefel Johnson (aka Boris)
3. Bonking Boris
5. That chap off Have I Got News For You who used to edit The Spectator
This not being to the taste of those in the party seeking an actual contest, the 50 or so who applied by noon of last Monday were whittled down to six who were interviewed this weekend to go forward to the hustings stage before a US-style open primary for all registered voters in the capital to choose the candidate in September. More on the six later but who were the 50 or so who applied?
The Conservatives won’t publish a list (the spoilsports) but the ConservativeHome blog lists the declared aspiring Tory mayors. As soon as the floppy-haired one tossed his bandana into the ring, London Assembly Member Richard Barnes and Radio 1 dee-jay Mike Read both took the sensible option and withdraw from contention. However, let us not forget the fallen at the first hurdle attempt of Lee Rotherham, the Gareth Keenan candidate (serves in the TA, thinks the government spends too much on scroungers and has a soft rock backing track on campaign video). An honourable mention should also fall to Winston McKenzie, who based his bid for the Tory nomination on his being someone’s brother (Duke McKenzie – no, us neither) and his political experience as a candidate for Kilroy-Silk’s Veritas party at the last general election.
The interviews held this Saturday, by a panel of faceless party bureaucrats no doubt, heard from six shortlisted contenders as to why they should challenge Ken next May. The two eliminated at this stage were the fantastically monickered former civic Mayor of Harrow Lurline Champagnie and an unnamed Alderman from the City of London. As the only black woman among the declared candidates, the inclusive forces of Cameron would have not dared to remove Lurline, but her sole claim to political relevance, having the support of three backbench Tory MPs, smacks of button-holing three inebriated souls in a party conference bar at 1am. Anyhow, they’re history now, leaving:
You will have of course come across the penultimate one of that list before but you might rightly be scratching your head at the rest. Andrew Boff can at least take comfort from knowing the terrain ahead, having sought the Tory nomination twice before and lost to Steve Norris on both occasions. Boff’s run of electoral bad luck stretches as far back as 1992, when he lost the hitherto safe (since 1885) seat of Hornsey and Wood Green for the Tories at the General Election of that year and subsequently lost his seat on Hackney council last year (in spite of the record gains for the Tories elsewhere in the capital in those elections and his borough-wide profile as Tory candidate for Mayor of Hackney that year, which he also lost by a massive margin).
Ken’s Labour strategists will surely be praying for him to go forward for the open primary in which their supporters can vote? This then leaves Victoria Borwick, a Kensington and Chelsea councillor with the world-beating slogan ‘a redhead not a Red Ken’ and Warwick Lightfoot, a fellow K&C councillor who believes his Shakespearean name automatically refutes any charges of him being obscure (it doesn’t). And if you don’t fall for his name, he thinks you should drop to the ground on sight of his CV – he used to advise Norman Lamont, you know.
So, Boris then.