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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Why is Labour surging in Wales?

A new poll suggests Labour will not be going gently into that good night. 

Well where did that come from? The first two Welsh opinion polls of the general election campaign had given the Conservatives all-time high levels of support, and suggested that they were on course for an historic breakthrough in Wales. For Labour, in its strongest of all heartlands where it has won every general election from 1922 onwards, this year had looked like a desperate rear-guard action to defend as much of what they held as possible.

But today’s new Welsh Political Barometer poll has shaken things up a bit. It shows Labour support up nine percentage points in a fortnight, to 44 percent. The Conservatives are down seven points, to 34 per cent. Having been apparently on course for major losses, the new poll suggests that Labour may even be able to make ground in Wales: on a uniform swing these figures would project Labour to regain the Gower seat they narrowly lost two years ago.

There has been a clear trend towards Labour in the Britain-wide polls in recent days, while the upwards spike in Conservative support at the start of the campaign has also eroded. Nonetheless, the turnaround in fortunes in Wales appears particularly dramatic. After we had begun to consider the prospect of a genuinely historic election, this latest reading of the public mood suggests something much more in line with the last century of Welsh electoral politics.

What has happened to change things so dramatically? One possibility is always that this is simply an outlier – the "rogue poll" that basic sampling theory suggests will happen every now and then. As us psephologists are often required to say, "it’s just one poll". It may also be, as has been suggested by former party pollster James Morris, that Labour gains across Britain are more apparent than real: a function of a rise in the propensity of Labour supporters to respond to polls.

But if we assume that the direction of change shown by this poll is correct, even if the exact magnitude may not be, what might lie behind this resurgence in Labour’s fortunes in Wales?

One factor may simply be Rhodri Morgan. Sampling for the poll started on Thursday last week – less than a day after the announcement of the death of the much-loved former First Minister. Much of Welsh media coverage of politics in the days since has, understandably, focused on sympathetic accounts of Mr Morgan’s record and legacy. It would hardly be surprising if that had had some positive impact on the poll ratings of Rhodri Morgan’s party – which, we should note, are up significantly in this new poll not only for the general election but also in voting intentions for the Welsh Assembly. If this has played a role, such a sympathy factor is likely to be short-lived: by polling day, people’s minds will probably have refocussed on the electoral choice ahead of them.

But it could also be that Labour’s campaign in Wales is working. While Labour have been making modest ground across Britain, in Wales there has been a determined effort by the party to run a separate campaign from that of the UK-wide party, under the "Welsh Labour" brand that carried them to victory in last year’s devolved election and this year’s local council contests. Today saw the launch of the Welsh Labour manifesto. Unlike two years ago, when the party’s Welsh manifesto was only a modestly Welshed-up version of the UK-wide document, the 2017 Welsh Labour manifesto is a completely separate document. At the launch, First Minister Carwyn Jones – who, despite not being a candidate in this election is fronting the Welsh Labour campaign – did not even mention Jeremy Corbyn.

Carwyn Jones also represented Labour at last week’s ITV-Wales debate – in contrast to 2015, when Labour’s spokesperson was then Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith. Jones gave an effective performance, being probably the best performer alongside Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood. In fact, Wood was also a participant in the peculiar, May-less and Corbyn-less, ITV debate in Manchester last Thursday, where she again performed capably. But her party have as yet been wholly unable to turn this public platform into support. The new Welsh poll shows Plaid Cymru down to merely nine percent. Nor are there any signs yet that the election campaign is helping the Liberal Democrats - their six percent support in the new Welsh poll puts them, almost unbelievably, at an even lower level than they secured in the disastrous election of two year ago.

This is only one poll. And the more general narrowing of the polls across Britain will likely lead to further intensification, by the Conservatives and their supporters in the press, of the idea of the election as a choice between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn as potential Prime Ministers. Even in Wales, this contrast does not play well for Labour. But parties do not dominate the politics of a nation for nearly a century, as Labour has done in Wales, just by accident. Under a strong Conservative challenge they certainly are, but Welsh Labour is not about to go gently into that good night.

Roger Scully is Professor of Political Science in the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University.

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