If Londoners wanted an insight into the Mayor’s motives and his slippery character, this is surely it.
Six times. Six times I explicitly asked the Mayor a simple yes or no question. And six times he obfuscated and blustered his way out of answering what could quickly become an issue of huge significance to Londoners.
Me: “Will you today make a firm commitment that you will not take a government post nor run for leadership of the Conservative party while you are Mayor of London?”
Johnson: “…What’s my normal formulation for this…I am more likely to be reincarnated as an olive or decapitated by a Frisbee or….”
I thought the Mayor might relish the opportunity to be straight with Londoners for once, and to show his commitment to this city by ruling out going for the Conservative leadership or a Cabinet post while also Mayor.
But today he refused this opportunity, leading us to the only logical conclusion – that he is deliberately leaving the door open to run for the Leadership of the Conservative Party or to return to the Cabinet should a vacancy arise.
Before we consider the significance of Boris’ stance, it is worth quickly recalling some of the previous positions he has taken on the issue of re-entering Westminster politics while also at the helm at City Hall.
When he stood down as an MP in June 2008 following his election as Mayor, he said: “This job, here in City Hall, is simply too big [to also remain in the Commons], and it is growing all the time.”
Four years later, following his re-election, Johnson said: “I made a solemn vow to Londoners to lead them out of recession, bring down crime and deliver the growth, investment and jobs that this city so desperately needs. Keeping that promise cannot be combined with any other political capacity.”
Boris then went further later in 2012, telling the Evening Standard “I’m absolutely not going to be returning to Parliament, I’ve got to do a job here in London and that’s what I want to do and it’s a massive, engrossing job.”
Fast forward to 2014, and Boris was still reaffirming his commitment to City Hall, describing being Mayor as “the best job in British politics and it’s what I want to do. ….The most important thing I have to do is run this city… I’ve got to get on with being mayor.”
Then finally, even more remarkably, after eventually admitting that he would seek to become an MP again, Boris used an interview with the Sunday Times to explain that he took the decision to become Mayor because “I thought: how could I rapidly acquire massive administrative experience? How can I show what I can do?”
Of course, it is not only the issue of his own political career that Boris has broken serious pledges on. His pledge not to close London Underground ticket offices – offices which he is now shutting. His pledge to keep police numbers at 32,000 – when they fell to just over 30,000 in January this year.
With Boris’ history of broken pledges in mind, it is little surprise that he was reluctant to make yet another promise that he potentially intends to renege on. But Londoners should take note. Being an MP is one thing, but taking a Cabinet post or running for the Conservative leadership are quite different. Both require an immense amount of time and energy and would be entirely incompatible with remaining London Mayor.
If Londoners wanted an insight into the Mayor’s motives and his slippery character, this is surely it. Boris has always said that the Mayoralty could not be combined with another political job, yet he is now refusing to guarantee that he would only serve as a backbencher while also Mayor.
Boris has already broken his pledge not to run for Parliament, and now he is leaving the door open to run for the Conservative leadership at the same time as being London Mayor.
This is yet another fundamentally dishonest snub from a man who has grown used to breaking his promises to Londoners.
Tom Copley is London Assembly Labour Group Spokesperson on Housing
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