Could Boris become an MP and remain Mayor?

There is nothing to stop the Mayor also serving as an MP from 2015.

The juxtaposition of Boris Johnson's success with the Conservatives' failure means that the Mayor of London's stock is higher than ever. He is hailed by the right as proof that Tories can win (even in a Labour city like London) when they offer a distinctive, populist brand of conservatism. Boris's re-election will gift him the largest personal mandate of any European politician, bar the French president.

In their columns today, both Fraser Nelson, the editor of the Spectator, and Tim Montgomerie (£), the editor of ConservativeHome (whom I recently profiled for the NS), write of Boris as a Tory king across the water.

Montgomerie notes:

Just three months ago it was almost fanciful to imagine Boris as a future leader. The chance is still small. But he is the one senior Conservative who simultaneously appeals to core Tory voters and to a large proportion of Labour supporters.

The ruthlessness of the Conservative Party should never be underestimated. They got rid of Margaret Thatcher when MPs concluded that she was a loser. Mr Cameron has enormous skills but he must recognise the seriousness of the situation and the need to respond. Either he finds an election game-changer or the party might very reluctantly reach for the blond-coloured nuclear button.

So, could Boris become an MP in 2015 and stay on as mayor until 2016 (when his second term expires)? There is no constitutional obstacle to him doing so. Indeed, there is a precedent. After the 2000 mayoral election, Ken Livingstone remained the MP for Brent East until 2001.

One senior Conservative tells today's Independent:

He could not wear two hats for a long period but doing it for 12 months would not cause a great controversy. Tory associations in London and the Home Counties would queue up to have him as their candidate. He would say he was representing London in Parliament for a year.

Fraser Nelson names Crispin Blunt and Patrick Mercer as two MPs who would happily make way for Boris.

The Mayor has never publicly ruled out becoming an MP while remaining Mayor of London. When questioned on the subject by Prospect magazine, he "declined to comment but gave a low laugh." Should he return to parliament in 2015, it is no longer unthinkable that he could assume the reins of power midway through the second term of a Conservative-led government (Cameron has said he doesn't want to fight more than two elections) or the first term of a Conservative opposition.

Boris is that increasingly rare beast: a Tory who can win elections. As they mourn the loss of hundreds of Conservative councillors and reflect on the party's disastrous failure to win a majority in 2010, Cameron's MPs won't forget that.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson and his wife Marina Johnson arrive to cast their votes in the election. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.