Boris Johnson. We're delighted...

newstatesman.com's campaign to help the Conservative Party with its London mayoral primary sees Bori

Cast your minds back a few weeks and you will recall that we at newstatesman.com were urging our London-based readers to get involved in the Tory London mayoral primary.

For the price of a £1.50 phonecall and, regardless of your own voting intentions, you could register to have a say in who would go head-to-head with Ken Livingstone in the name of Conservatism...

There were four contenders: Victoria Borwick, Andrew Boff, Warwick Lighfoot and Boris Johnson. All were invited to pen us a piece and only Boris declined to do so. He was on holiday in America at the time.

Our interest in the Tory showdown, such as it was, was inferred in some quarters to be mischievous. Some seemed to think we were trying to convince people on the left of the political spectrum to get involved in order to scupper the blond bombshell's mayoral bid. A suggestion which hurt us deeply.

In fact, as I told the BBC's Brian Wheeler: "If you want the Conservatives to lose, it's true you could vote for the one you considered the most hopeless." But after all that could have been Boris, couldn't it?

And in any case, if stopping Boris was on our minds at newstatesman.com - and I maintain the whole notion is questionable - we were resoundingly unsuccessful.

For it has been announced that the member for Henley will indeed go head-to-head with Red Ken, Green Berry and some Lib Dem or other in next year's contest.

In the primary Boris won 15,661 votes, Borwick got 1,869 votes, Boff 1,674 and Lightfoot picked up 609 votes.

It was one of those ballots that offers you four choices - you put '1' by your favourite, '2' by your second favourite and so on up to four times. I voted three times...

Actually come to think of it I may have voted six times because I left it all rather late and then having posted my ballot last thing on Tuesday thought 'what with the Post Office these days I'd better do it online' but I think we'd better skip over that detail.

So what happens next? Well it depends how you look at it. Maybe we are at the start of seven months of hilarity - London laughing all the way to the polls and then waking up to the hangover of a BoJo mayoralty.

Or perhaps, we will all get to sit back and enjoy ourselves as Lexus Dave's Conservatives unravel and Boris blunders with a series of gaffes that simultaneously offend everyone AND expose his almost total ignorance of the governance of one of the greatest cities on earth.

Or maybe he will surprise us all. Maybe.

Back to the Tory mayoral primary briefly. A Conservative Party spokesman said the contest had "captured the interest of the public and has helped challenge voter apathy". Not with under 20,000 votes from a City of 7.5 million it hasn't! But awfully well done for trying...

Ben Davies trained as a journalist after taking most of the 1990s off. Prior to joining the New Statesman he spent five years working as a politics reporter for the BBC News website. He lives in North London.
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Beware, hard Brexiteers - Ruth Davidson is coming for you

The Scottish Conservative leader is well-positioned to fight. 

Wanted: Charismatic leader with working-class roots and a populist touch who can take on the Brexiteers, including some in the government, and do so convincingly.

Enter Ruth Davidson. 

While many Tory MPs quietly share her opposition to a hard Brexit, those who dare to be loud tend to be backbenchers like Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan. 

By contrast, the Scottish Conservative leader already has huge credibility for rebuilding her party north of the border. Her appearances in the last days of the EU referendum campaign made her a star in the south as well. And she has no qualms about making a joke at Boris Johnson’s expense

Speaking at the Institute of Directors on Monday, Davidson said Brexiteers like Nigel Farage should stop “needling” European leaders.

“I say to the Ukip politicians, when they chuckle and bray about the result in June, grow up,” she declared. “Let us show a bit more respect for these European neighbours and allies.”

Davidson is particularly concerned that Brexiteers underestimate the deeply emotional and political response of other EU nations. 

The negotiations will be 27 to 1, she pointed out: “I would suggest that macho, beer swilling, posturing at the golf club bar isn’t going to get us anywhere.”

At a time when free trade is increasingly a dirty word, Davidson is also striking in her defence of the single market. As a child, she recalls, every plate of food on the table was there because her father, a self-made businessman, had "made stuff and sold it abroad". 

She attacked the Daily Mail for its front cover branding the judges who ruled against the government’s bid to trigger Article 50 “enemies of the people”. 

When the headline was published, Theresa May and Cabinet ministers stressed the freedom of the press. By contrast, Davidson, a former journalist, said that to undermine “the guardians of our democracy” in this way was “an utter disgrace”. 

Davidson might have chosen Ukip and the Daily Mail to skewer, but her attacks could apply to certain Brexiteers in her party as well. 

When The Staggers enquired whether this included the Italy-baiting Foreign Secretary Johnson, she launched a somewhat muted defence.

Saying she was “surprised by the way Boris has taken to the job”, she added: “To be honest, when you have got such a big thing happening and when you have a team in place that has been doing the preparatory work, it doesn’t make sense to reshuffle the benches."

Nevertheless, despite her outsider role, the team matters to Davidson. Part of her electoral success in Scotland is down the way she has capitalised on the anti-independence feeling after the Scottish referendum. If the UK heads for a hard Brexit, she too will have to fend off accusations that her party is the party of division. 

Indeed, for all her jibes at the Brexiteers, Davidson has a serious message. Since the EU referendum, she is “beginning to see embryos of where Scotland has gone post-referendum”. And, she warned: “I do not think we want that division.”

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.