Boris to be part-time village idiot?

It seems that the Tories have been sitting on this one until election morning, and little damn wonder. Boris Johnson has changed his mind, and announced that if he wins in London tomorrow, he is going to keep his seat as MP for Henley for up to a year. A cunning stunt, indeed.

This settles it. He definitely thinks he has been running for the position of Lord Mayor (the one wot wears all the chains and that palava and goes to big dinners) all along.

Leaving aside how monstrously unfair this is on everyone who voted for him on the way to work this morning before the story was allowed to break (Well, fancy that! Jolly lucky timing, eh?), this has the makings of an extremely disturbing situation for London.

We all knew that Boris was never really going to run London all by his little self. My main fear attaching to him throughout this campaign has not been that’s he’s a racist (I doubt he really is) or that he’s not liberal (I think he probably is) but that he wasn’t actually going to be the Mayor. The “Mayor of London”, should he win, was going to be the label for a collective of faceless advisers who might very well be the kind of barking paternalistic illiberal Tories I cross the road to avoid. There was always the risk, and Simon Heffer picked up on it again in his anti-Boris blast yesterday, that voting Boris didn’t actually mean you’d get Boris.

And this seems to, well, unashamedly confirm it. No sane person can want to run London and be a home counties MP at the same time. It’s ludicrous. It’s a fairly outrageous thing to ask of Londoners and an absolutely atrocious thing to ask of the people of Henley. So which of us is going to draw the short straw and get fake cardboard cut-out Boris?

And what on earth prompted the Tories to make this terrible, craven, cheating decision anyway? If Nick Clegg had pulled a weaselly trick like this they’d have been in full cry. Let’s suppose (oh do go on!) that they’re not all cackling vessels of ultimate evil for a moment – what can their motivation possibly be? What in the name of arse is going on at Shouty Plonker HQ?

Well, the only thought I have is that they’re worried about losing the Henley by-election. But they can’t be! It’s the Tory heartland of Tory heartlands. Is Dave so concerned about compromising his somewhat static 40% poll share that he’d compromise the future of London and Henley instead to avoid it? I thought the Tories were meant to be romping away from the Lib Dems in the south (that’s what I keep reading in the newspapers anyway)?

Whatever the cause, those faceless silhouettes of the big man on the Back Boris campaign literature suddenly look extremely sinister. [FX: Thunder rumbles ominously in the distance…No really, it just did!] Who did we really back? Who exactly is going to be running London after tomorrow?


  1. One thing Boris has to his credit is his principled stance on immigration, which drew fire from Camoron. Though I don’t know if he’d actually have any power over that.

  2. Quite. Like I said, his policies (where he has them) aren’t my main fear, and I don’t think Lib Dems who’ve given him second pref should feel obliged to defend themselves at all. This is a shabby trick that’s been played at the last minute on all of us.

  3. Um, I hate to defend him, but hey, I get to attack a Murdoch rag, so incredibly misleading headline:
    This will not be done in a rush. We have a timetable to select a candidate before the summer holiday, with a potential for an autumn or spring by-election.

    So he will stand down, just not the day after he wins, he’ll give Henley time to get a decent candidate, etc.

    Which I think is justified, a by election just before Conference season would cheer Cameron up and with recess he wouldn’t need to be working two jobs, etc.

    I think Cameron’s more scared of Boris winning TBH, I don’t think that was the plan…

  4. A quote from ConservativeHome (names and places changed but it amounts to the same thing):

    We warned before the elections that if Boris Johnson became the Mayor of London then city would be saddled with a part-time Mayor, dividing his time between London and Henley. The reality is that it is his Westminster territory of Henley which has suffered. He must be the most useless MP in the House of Commons, in terms of attendance and actual work done for his constituents.

    People in Henley did not vote for Boris Johnson in 2005 with the view that he would go on to completely ignore them. He is treating them with contempt and with the Prime Minister now having bottled a General Election, it is likely they will have to put up with another two and a half years of this nonsense. Boris Johnson should do the decent thing and resign as an MP. He would still be left with two jobs to do – a columnist and Mayor of London, which should be more than enough for his ego. The current tally of three is most definitely a crowd and I hope that if he truly does care about people in Henley he will pave the way for a by-election in the very near future. As it currently stands, there is no hard-working MP for Henley, which is the least that any constituency deserves.

    You tell ’em Murdo!

  5. MatGB said:

    So he will stand down, just not the day after he wins, he’ll give Henley time to get a decent candidate, etc.

    Yes, the Henley Conservatives do need time to select a new candidate, but the timing should not be purely for the convenience of Henley Conservatives – without wanting to sound pious, there is also the small matter of the wishes of those who do not vote Conservative. We are occasionally, and unfortunately, reminded of the fact that by-elections can be held at very short notice when the sitting MP dies, as is presently the case in Crewe and Nantwich, and I don’t see any good reason why it should be any different if the sitting MP simply decides that he’d rather do another job.

    Besides, they’ve already had plenty of warning – it’s not as if they can have failed to notice that Boris was running for the mayoral job, and they must have at least considered the ‘what if’ scenario, at least for the last couple of months as his polling position strengthened.

  6. Alix, I think you’re overegging your pudding here, bearing in mind that:

    a) Ken stayed as MP for Brent East for more than 14 months after he was elected Mayor.

    b) Alex Salmond has been a Westminster MP for the last year while running Scotland (a little bit further away from Westminster than Henley, don’t you agree?). I see no sign of him resigning. Nor have I seen your article callig for him to do so.

    c) Parliament is full of MPs doing other big political jobs (some of the Northern Ireland ministers for a start, but the same point could be made about all senior government Ministers).

    Also, if you could point me to the articles on the blog against all the people in these roles calling on them to drop out of being an MP, I’d be grateful – I can’t find them.

    Nice knockabout, but with a slight whiff of “circumstances alter cases”.


  7. Hm, Matt, your point seems to come down to “Why haven’t you written exactly the same thing about comparable cases x, y and z?”

    This is a rather daft argument, if nothing else because it simply hands me the opportunity to say “Well, I think they’re outrageous too!”, which I shan’t insult you by doing.

    It’s also daft to treat a blog like a witness statement in a court case when it’s, well, a blog as you know perfectly well. I’m not interested in writing the kind of blog where I have to “cover myself” to the extent that you suggest, ensuring that I’d made comparable statements about the other two before I “allow” myself to make one about Boris. You’d only have a point if, conversely, I had written posts explicitly defending the same behaviour from livingstone and Salmond.

    But, though I actually hold much the same view on Ken’s fourteen month overlap, and don’t really know enough about Scottish politics to comment on Salmond, there is a genuine difference here: this announcement was made *this morning*. The entire campaign has been conducted on the basis that Boris would stand down as MP.

    And @Mat/Jennie, on that note, if it’s so inoffensive then why was it only released this morning? There was, as you may recall, a slight hooha much earlier in the campaign about Boris holding the two posts, and it was this that prompted him to state that he would step down in the first place.

    It did cross my mind that this is just a bit of innocuous ill-timed daftness on the part of Tory HQ @ Henley, but I’ve yet to see any evidence of central office slapping them down.

  8. The difference between Boris and the Livingstone and Salmond examples is that Boris had previously clearly said that if elected London Mayor, he would stand down as MP for Henley.

    The criticism of him is not that the two roles are incompatible, but that he has breached an election pledge before he has even been elected.

  9. Expect to hear your fine ‘village idiot’ meme to make it on to the next edition of the wholly appropriate ‘Bugle’ podcast. Had you bedded as many men as the boy Nick has women, it’s statistically possible that either John Oliver or Andy Zaltzman could have been among them. Just a thought.

  10. Alix, whats your opinion on the breakdown of London voters today?
    Have people been voting issues, values, party-based or personality?

    Do you think the introduction of Johnson into the race changed the voters reasons for how they voted?

  11. obviously, the comparisons with ken and jack are valid. just a little inconvenient for some…….. anyway, sadly, this election comes down to who you dislike the least. like lots of footer matches!

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