Deputy Mayor Stephen Greenhalgh has thrown his hat into the ring to be the Tory mayoral candidate in 2016 (yes, 2016; there's a general election to come first and we're already talking about who'll replace Boris).
Greenhalgh has Boris Johnson's delegated powers over policing in London and the Evening Standard clearly fancies him as a frontrunner, broadcasting his candidacy statement on London Live and running an interview with him (albeit all it's really doing is attempting to play down the sexual harassment allegations from a couple of years ago).
We're less impressed. While he has now got a hold of his brief, he's still the man who thought it appropriate to come unprepared and combative to his first meeting with the London Assembly's Police and Crime Committee. He backs the use of water cannon in London (which have now been bought, but are languishing in storage waiting for the Home Secretary to license them) and he appears to believe in the art of spin — but not how to do it well.
For a start, there was what The Guardian's Dave Hill dubbed the "curious case of Stephen Greenhalgh and the Met 'key worker' homes". As a way of raising funds for the Metropolitan Police, a strategy has been formed of selling off force-owned property, part of which comprises a series of houses and flats. One group of tenants in Merton, including teachers and nurses, were handed eviction notices in October which they argued would price them out of the area. A spokesman for the Mayor's Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) — Greenhalgh's department — told the BBC:
"The sale of both of these properties is part of the biggest restructure of the Met estate in 50 years and all of the money raised will be pumped back into front line policing right across the capital. Neither of these properties are yet on the market and we would consider proposals put forward by the residents."
Yet on 27 November a press release was issued from City Hall declaring that Greenhalgh had "intervened" to stop the sale and introduced new guidelines to prevent the eviction of longstanding tenants in future. Hilariously, this was spun as Greenhalgh saving the day rather than conducting a massive U-turn. Cynics may think he suddenly realised that having the eviction of key workers on his record wouldn't go down well during an election campaign...
Another level of spin came during his candidacy announcement, when he said that "police numbers are rising to the 32,000 mark", rather forgetting that London had 33,260 officers in March 2010. This is such an obvious obsfucation that it almost pains us to point it out. (Almost.)
Stephen Greenhalgh didn't come from nowhere. He was leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council from 2006-2012 and presided over a regime of cost cutting that made it beloved of David Cameron. Less beloved of residents, however; the Conservatives lost control of Hammersmith and Fulham to Labour in this year's elections, partly because of flagship policies like the controversial Earl's Court Project, which will bulldoze the homes of around 2,000 people as well as the iconic venue, and replace them with 7,500 new homes — just 740 of which will be 'affordable' (for more on the realities of what 'affordable housing' means, see our earlier article). We're unsure of quite how Greenhalgh found the chutzpah to then come out with a line like this to advertise his candidacy:
"The people who keep our city alive can no longer afford to live here. I have the track record and expertise to deliver for them."
So if not Stephen Greenhalgh (and please, no, not Stephen Greenhalgh), who should the Conservatives pick as their candidate to replace Boris? Ivan Massow seems to be fulfilling the 'celebrity candidate with bonkers ideas' brief. Assembly Member Andrew Boff has also put himself forward — he's someone who knows the inner workings of City Hall well, and we know him to be genuinely passionate about (and personally affected by) the housing crisis. There's also a case to be made for persuading Sir Eddie Lister to run. He's Boris's right hand man at City Hall and, arguably, is doing the bulk of the mayor's work already.