The announcement that Boris Johnson will stand as an MP for the 2015 election can have come as no surprise. It is what Londoners now expect of the erstwhile mayor who has managed to cover up large amounts of incompetence by choosing to be seen as ‘bumbling’. Boris has captured the hearts of large swathes of the population with his buffoonish behavior, most notably when he dangled from a faulty zipwire during the London Olympics. However, if you are a Londoner his time in mayoral office has been characterised mainly by the evasion of enquiries. Attending any of the Mayoral Question Time events hosted in different boroughs throughout the city, or following the goings on at City Hall, is like watching a masterclass in pretending to answer a question.
But one question that Johnson did answer when he ran for his second term of mayor was that he would not take two political offices at once. Given that he has committed to serving out his full second term as mayor (until 2016), in standing for Parliament in 2015, his promise not to hold two offices simultaneously would prove to be a lie. In his speech announcing his intention to stand for election, he said that circumstances were different now London was not in recession. Yet, we still keep the Houses of Parliament in session when we are not in an economic downturn, London needs a mayor who is focused on carrying out projects that concern London. What it does not need is someone sitting in Westminster and concerning themselves with other issues.
Can Boris Johnson still work effectively for a better Greater London and sit in Parliament simultaneously?
There are two key reasons why it would matter if Boris Johnson became an MP whilst remaining as Mayor of London. Firstly, and probably most importantly, it makes a mockery of the mayoral system. Secondly, the people of whichever constituency Boris runs in would have elected politician who has shown that he cannot fulfill a mandate that the public have given him. If Boris Johnson is to run as an MP, it is very likely he would win the seat, despite his own claims that he probably will not get elected. He regularly polls as Britain’s most popular politician ahead of both Cameron and Farage. He is tipped to run in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat that is being vacated by John Randall, a seat that is traditionally a Tory stronghold, with the Conservative party taking 48.3 percent of the vote there at the last election. It is safe to say he is pretty much guaranteed to be sat on the other side of the river come 2015. Yet how can we confidently give someone a seat in Parliament who would supposedly be spending at least half of their time organising a different set of directives? Johnson would simultaneously be letting down two groups of people: his constituents and Londoners, by devoting his whole time to neither of them.
That is one of the most serious problems with Boris deciding to run in 2015. Having a London mayor gives the city a degree of independence from central government, recognising that there are certain issues where it can be autonomous. By having the Mayor of London within the legislature, whether that is in government or opposition, threatens this independence. This self-governing aspect of the city was the result of a 1998 referendum whereby 72 percent of the Londoners who voted were in favour of it. Splitting the role as Boris intends to do goes against this vote for autonomy. There are a significant number of conflicts of interest between the two roles, not least the problem of Heathrow Airport as George Eaton pointed out in the New Statesman . Considering the hypothetical possibility that Johnson will run for the Uxbridge seat, he would be forced to either abandon his critique of Heathrow which is one of Uxbridge’s biggest employers or reverse his stance entirely. This neatly shows why holding two roles with different mandates can only lead to disappointment and hypocrisy. It is part of a wider trend whereby centralisation wins out over the progress of the democracy which can come with devolution of power. If Boris wants to run as an MP in 2015, he should follow his own personal ambitions, but he should step down as mayor because he should not make Londoners follow them too.
Jessy Parker Humphreys is Music Editor at The Oxford Student. She is going into her second year studying PPE at Jesus. She is also one of the editors of NoHeterOx** and Blog Editor for OxPolicy
PHOTOS/BackBoris2012 Campaign Team