Boris wouldn't have been elected mayor under his 50% strike turnout rule

The mayor wants strikes to be banned unless 50 per cent of staff vote, but turnout in the 2012 mayoral election was just 38 per cent.

Ahead of this week's anticipated tube strike by the RMT and the TSSA, Boris Johnson has used his Telegraph column to once again call for the coalition to introduce a 50 per cent turnout threshold for industrial action (turnout was 30 per cent in the most recent RMT ballot). He writes: "We need a ballot threshold – so that at least 50 per cent of the relevant workforce has to take the trouble to vote, or else the ballot is void. That is surely the least we can ask. It is time for the Government to legislate."

It's an idea that Boris has been championing for years, without success (and what happened to his promise of a "no-strike deal"?), but it appears increasingly that it will be included in the next Conservative manifesto. He told the Times last month: "This is something I wanted the coalition to do from the very beginning. We haven’t been able to do that and I’m reconciled to that now. Maybe it will be in our manifesto. I think it would be good if Dave put it in. I think there’s a good chance he will." Since it's Boris's brother, Jo, who will be responsible for much of the manifesto (he chairs the No. 10 policy board), the Mayor can be assumed to speak with some authority on this matter. 

On the subject of a 50 per cent threshold, it's worth noting one inconvenient truth for the Mayor: he wouldn't have been elected (or re-elected) under his own rule. In 2008, turnout in the London mayoral election was 45 per cent, before falling to 38 per cent in 2012. If Boris wants to lecture others on this point, he might want to consider the weakness of his own mandate first. 

Boris Johnson travels on the London Underground in May 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.