Boris Johnson at the media launch for the Invictus Games 2014 at the Copper Box Arena in the Olympic Park on March 6, 2014 in London. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Would Boris resign as mayor in order to become Conservative leader?

The Tories should start preparing for the possibility of a mayoral by-election next year. 

In defiance of Michael Heseltine's recent advice to him not to stand for parliament until he has completed his second term as Mayor of London in 2016, Boris Johnson is set to announce that he will seek to return as an MP at next year's election. The Daily Mail and the Sun report that he will confirm his intentions by the summer in order to avoid acting as a distraction at the Conservative conference in October (although a distraction he will doubtless remain). 

There is no constitutional bar to Boris becoming an MP and continuing to serve as Mayor. Indeed, there is a precedent. After the first contest in 2000, Ken Livingstone remained the MP for Brent East until 2001. But if, as he has long hinted, Boris intends to run for the Conservative leadership in the event of a Tory defeat in 2015, things become more complicated.

It is inconceivable that he could serve as both Conservative leader and Mayor of London for any significant period of time, leaving him with three options: to avoid standing in 2015, to persuade the party to delay any contest (if Boris stands down a minimum of six months before the end of his term, his deputy takes charge), or to trigger a mayoral by-election. Of these three, despite his pledge to serve a full second term in City Hall, it is the latter that is most likely. But the move would likely do significant damage to his party, which would be accused of disrespecting the mayoralty and would struggle to avoid defeat in the capital. If the polls in 2015 continue to suggest that Boris would outperform any alternative leader, this might be regarded as a price worth paying, but it is one the Tories should start to weigh up now. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.