Boris Johnson addresses delegates at the CBI conference in London on November 4, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Boris hasn't ruled out becoming an MP in 2015

Contrary to reports, the mayor is keeping all options open.

Boris Johnson's comments on his LBC phone-in show ("Ask Boris") this morning are being reported as him ruling himself out of standing for parliament in 2015. Asked by presenter Nick Ferrari whether he was preparing to return to the Commons (following the Times's story on Saturday), he said: 

As I've never tired of telling you in the past 18 months, I'm going to get on with my job as Mayor of London.

Think of the joy of being Mayor of London. Do you know the things we're doing?

Let me tell you about something we've been doing. They've been working for months in Hammersmith and Fulham on plans to take that flyover and make it a flyunder. We've been listening to these plans for months, thinking it's never going to happen.

But actually, it is brilliant. It's a most fantastic scheme. We're going to tunnelise the flyover. The timescale will be in three or four years. What was so interesting was that even the hardened TfL engineers looked at this, having been pretty skeptical, and they thought it was a great scheme.

"If you've got that kind of scheme on your agenda, the daily excitement of helping to run the greatest city on Earth, why would you want to do anything else?

Then asked if he was "not going into the Commons prior to 2015 because of the excitement of the Hammersmith flyunder?", he replied: "Correct. The sheer excitement of the Hammersmith flyunder is...the answer is I’m sticking to my job that I was elected to do in 2012." 

It is this response that has prompted the headlines stating he will not stand as an MP in 2015. But the question, as you will have noticed, was on whether he would seek to enter the Commons before 2015 (through a by-election), not whether he would do so at that year's general election. 

As for Boris's assertion that he's sticking to his job, there is nothing to stop him becoming an MP and continuing to serve as mayor. Indeed, there is a precedent. As he will know, after the 2000 mayoral election, Ken Livingstone remained the MP for Brent East until 2001.

One senior Conservative told the Independent last year:

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.

For now, the mayor is wisely keeping all options open. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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