Boris Johnson has announced he will stand as an MP in May 2015.
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Where will Boris stand as an MP?

Boris appears to have at least five good options.

Boris Johnson is returning to the Commons in 2015.

I haven’t got any particular seat lined up but I do think that in all probability… I will try to find somewhere to stand in 2015.”

So where might he stand? Many lists have been made and unmade in the past five years as Boris dithered – and the bookies are now frantically re-drawing their odds.

Just in the past month three seats have been sown up. We now know Boris won’t be standing in North West Hampshire, Hornchurch and Westminster, and Louth and Horncastle.

His deputy mayor Kit Malthouse was chosen to replace the retiring Sir George Young in the first, Dame Angela Watkinson was recently re-selected in the second, and an open primary just decided the candidate in the third.

But there are five seats that look like strong possibilities:

Uxbridge and South Ruislip

Tory majority: 24.9 per cent
How “safe”: 110th safest 
Distance from City Hall: 20.2 miles (59 minute drive)

While a few seats escaped in July, the peripheral London seat of Uxbridge became Boris’s best option last month when its MP, John Randall, announced he was stepping down.

Randall won the redrawn seat by 24.9 per cent in 2010, and the party has held Uxbridge since 1970, which the pollster Anthony Wells has described as "middle-of-the-road suburbia, hidden away at the end at the far end of the Metropolitan line".

The seat could allow him to serve out his second term as London Mayor, as he committed to doing when he won in 2012. This wouldn’t be without precedent – Ken Livingstone spent 13 months as MP for Brent East after becoming London mayor in May 2000.

The constituency association is reportedly looking to select a candidate by mid-September, which would fit with the Tory leadership’s hope that Boris doesn’t distract the party conference later that month.

Hertsmere

Tory majority: 37.3 per cent
How “safe”: 13th safest
Distance from City Hall: 16.4 miles (62 minute drive)

Uxbridge is a safe seat, but Hertsmere is one of the safest Tory seats in the country. Only 12 other seats returned larger majorities in 2010.

The seat also became available last month, when James Clappison stepped down – apparently at the behest of his local association. If they were looking for a more high-profile MP, after 23 years of Clappison’s quiet localism, Boris could be their man.

The long-serving Thatcherite minister Cecil Parkinson held the seat throughout the 1980s. Selecting Boris would bring the area national stature once again.

Kensington

Tory majority: 37.3 per cent
How “safe”: 13th safest
Distance from City Hall: 6.8 miles (43 minute drive)

There is no firm indication that Kensington’s MP, Sir Malcom Rifkind, is willing to stand down, but Kensington would certainly be the ideal seat for Johnson.

Kensington – as safe a seat as Uxbridge – takes in Boris’ cultural hinterland of High Street Kensington, Knightsbridge and Notting Hill, and would be a short trip away from City Hall.

Richmond Park

Tory majority: 6.9 per cent
How “safe”: 250th safest
Distance from City Hall: 10.5 miles (57 minute drive)

Zac Goldsmith only won the leafy London seat in 2010, but rumours have often circulated that he would be willing to step aside for Boris.

The seat look less safe than others, but the Liberal Democrats are unlikely to pose anything like the threat they did in 2010, when Goldsmith still won the seat by nearly 7 per cent.

Johnson may find the seat sleepy in comparison to the bustle of Kensington, but he would still be relatively close to City Hall and Westminster.

South Cambridgeshire

Tory majority: 13.3 per cent
How “safe”: 193rd safest
Distance from City Hall: 67.7 miles (141 minute drive)

Andrew Lansley currently occupies the seat, but he is stepping down at the next election in pursuit of an “international” role.

David Cameron passed him over for EU Commissioner, but Lansley was his boss in the early 1990s, when the Prime Minister was a young staffer in the Conservative Research Department. 

Either way, his Cambridgeshire seat appears open to Boris, although it would leave him well out of London and make his bid to continue as Mayor until 2016 all the more impractical.

 

Seat data provided by May 2015 — launching this September. Distance and driving times according to Google Maps.

 

Harry Lambert was the editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

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Air pollution: 5 steps to vanquishing an invisible killer

A new report looks at the economics of air pollution. 

110, 150, 520... These chilling statistics are the number of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution for the cities of Southampton, Nottingham and Birmingham in 2010 respectively. Or how about 40,000 - that is the total number of UK deaths per year that are attributable the combined effects of particulate matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).

This situation sucks, to say the very least. But while there are no dramatic images to stir up action, these deaths are preventable and we know their cause. Road traffic is the worst culprit. Traffic is responsible for 80 per cent of NOx on high pollution roads, with diesel engines contributing the bulk of the problem.

Now a new report by ResPublica has compiled a list of ways that city councils around the UK can help. The report argues that: “The onus is on cities to create plans that can meet the health and economic challenge within a short time-frame, and identify what they need from national government to do so.”

This is a diplomatic way of saying that current government action on the subject does not go far enough – and that cities must help prod them into gear. That includes poking holes in the government’s proposed plans for new “Clean Air Zones”.

Here are just five of the ways the report suggests letting the light in and the pollution out:

1. Clean up the draft Clean Air Zones framework

Last October, the government set out its draft plans for new Clean Air Zones in the UK’s five most polluted cities, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton (excluding London - where other plans are afoot). These zones will charge “polluting” vehicles to enter and can be implemented with varying levels of intensity, with three options that include cars and one that does not.

But the report argues that there is still too much potential for polluters to play dirty with the rules. Car-charging zones must be mandatory for all cities that breach the current EU standards, the report argues (not just the suggested five). Otherwise national operators who own fleets of vehicles could simply relocate outdated buses or taxis to places where they don’t have to pay.  

Different vehicles should fall under the same rules, the report added. Otherwise, taking your car rather than the bus could suddenly seem like the cost-saving option.

2. Vouchers to vouch-safe the project’s success

The government is exploring a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, to help get the worst and oldest polluting vehicles off the road. But as the report points out, blanket scrappage could simply put a whole load of new fossil-fuel cars on the road.

Instead, ResPublica suggests using the revenue from the Clean Air Zone charges, plus hiked vehicle registration fees, to create “Pollution Reduction Vouchers”.

Low-income households with older cars, that would be liable to charging, could then use the vouchers to help secure alternative transport, buy a new and compliant car, or retrofit their existing vehicle with new technology.

3. Extend Vehicle Excise Duty

Vehicle Excise Duty is currently only tiered by how much CO2 pollution a car creates for the first year. After that it becomes a flat rate for all cars under £40,000. The report suggests changing this so that the most polluting vehicles for CO2, NOx and PM2.5 continue to pay higher rates throughout their life span.

For ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, changes to vehicle excise duty are key to moving people onto cleaner modes of transport: “We need a network of clean air zones to keep the most polluting diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of our towns and cities and incentives such as a targeted scrappage scheme and changes to vehicle excise duty to move people onto cleaner modes of transport.”

4. Repurposed car parks

You would think city bosses would want less cars in the centre of town. But while less cars is good news for oxygen-breathers, it is bad news for city budgets reliant on parking charges. But using car parks to tap into new revenue from property development and joint ventures could help cities reverse this thinking.

5. Prioritise public awareness

Charge zones can be understandably unpopular. In 2008, a referendum in Manchester defeated the idea of congestion charging. So a big effort is needed to raise public awareness of the health crisis our roads have caused. Metro mayors should outline pollution plans in their manifestos, the report suggests. And cities can take advantage of their existing assets. For example in London there are plans to use electronics in the Underground to update travellers on the air pollution levels.

***

Change is already in the air. Southampton has used money from the Local Sustainable Travel Fund to run a successful messaging campaign. And in 2011 Nottingham City Council became the first city to implement a Workplace Parking levy – a scheme which has raised £35.3m to help extend its tram system, upgrade the station and purchase electric buses.

But many more “air necessities” are needed before we can forget about pollution’s worry and its strife.  

 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.