Friday, September 02, 2011

London Mayoral elections: It's déjà vu all over again

Congratulations to Brian Paddick to on being chosen as the Liberal Democrat candidate in next year's London Mayoral elections.

While we are at it, congratulations to Boris Johnson on being chosen as the Conservative candidate. And congratulations to Ken Livingstone on being chosen as the Labour candidate.

That's right: the big three parties will be fielding the same three candidates in 2012 as they did in 2008.

Why is this? I suspect the answer lies in the Mayoral system itself and the way it makes it harder for people to build a reputation in local politics.

As James Graham wrote back in 2007:
The weakness of the GLA is directly relevant to the difficulty that parties have in finding mayoral candidates. 
The ideal candidate is a big personality who already has a track record of success and a public profile. Back in the day, it was suggested that Tony Blair had Richard Branson in mind for the job. We’ve had talk radio hosts suggested (Nick Ferrari), think tank directors (Nick Boles), cheesy DJs (Mike Read), senior politicians and ex-ministers (Simon Hughes and Steve Norris), but the only candidate who has ever enjoyed public support is someone whose only claim to fame is that he used to run the GLC. In many respects, this is a good thing, and a valuable corrective to the perception that career politics is all bad and disliked by the public. 
But the GLA is not the GLC. Love it or hate it, people took great interest in what the GLC did. Livingstone wasn’t the only personality that emerged from it (Tony Banks, John McDonnell). If we had the GLC now, we would already have half a dozen people being lined up as possible successors to Ken’s crown. Instead, if Livingstone went under a bendy bus tomorrow, Labour would have more difficulty than any other party in finding a credible candidate.
The balance between the mayor and the city council is a problem in Leicester too. In theory the council should be holding the mayor to account: in practice it is the mayor who settles old scores holds the council to account.

Those who favour elected mayors need to solve this problem if they are to convince me of their case.

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