Boris Johnson: A colorful Mayor of London

Does he have any future in Conservative Party? Boris Johnson assumed the office a month ago, on 4 May 2008.

Questions:

1. Johnson is interesting and colorful at the first sight and he is probably not the prototype of the average member of the Conservative Party, if I’m not mistaken. What are main reasons he won election?

2. I know Johnson is only one moth in the office but anyway what do you think about his start?

3. Is Johnson in some way the future of Conservative Party? Do you think his ambition could be also to become the leader of the party?

Answers:

Jane Green, Lecturer in Politics, School of Social Science, University of Manchester

1. Johnson is interesting and colourful but that does not equate to him being atypical of Conservatives. The four main reasons why he won, are: Labour’s deepening unpopularity overall, some of Ken Livingstone’s high profile and unpopular policies, the name recognition of Boris Johnson, and the work the Conservatives have done to make them a party that is no longer unfashionable to vote for.

2. Too soon to say, but some interesting signals that he wishes to bring in a ‘new style of politics’. I’d be quite pessimistic on that one – not because of him as a person but because of the institutions and incentives of governing.

3. I don’t think so. Although some journalists say he’s deeply ambitious, he seems to me to lack the fundamental ambition to do this. I’d also be cautious about predicting overwhelming successes as London’s mayor but I’ll be happy to be surprised.

Roman Gerodimos, Lecturer in Communication & Journalism, Bournemouth University

1. The main reason for Johnson’s win is Londoners’ dissatisfaction with the previous mayor, Ken Livingstone. While Livingstone won the first two elections by a wide margin, he took a number of somewhat unpopular measures (e.g. congestion charge) and was subsequently seen as unsuccessful in dealing with issues that people care about, such as crime. In the previous two contests the Conservatives did not offer a viable alternative, whereas Johnson was a prominent front-bench MP. You are right to say that he is not very typical of Conservative MPs (although his socio-economic and educational background are typical of the so-called “British establishment”). However, in an age of celebrity culture and media politics, Boris Johnson is the archetypical media-friendly, celebrity politician who often provokes or causes amusement with his actions. So part of his success is the “feel-good” factor that he communicated to the voters.

2.  Johnson made a very dynamic start by banning alcohol on London’s transport system within days of his election. He is also working on a referendum that will scrap the extension of the (unpopular) congestion charge to west London. Both of these measures were amongst his more prominent pre-election pledges, so he is working hard to show that he is a serious politician that will honour his promises. Obviously, in one sense, these are quite easy things to do. His skills and image will be tested once he starts working on the (much) more difficult issues of crime, housing etc. Given his conservative background it will be interesting to see whether he moves to further privatise public services, such as the transport system, or whether he takes a more consensual approach.

3.  Well, all politicians want to become leaders of their party, but given David Cameron’s potential for success, and Boris Johnson’s social profile, I think it’s unlikely that he would become leader of the Conservatives in the foreseeable future. A lot will depend on how he does in London and whether eventually he is seen as a successful mayor. However, Cameron and Johnson share a lot of things (e.g. they were both members of the highly exclusive, secretive and controversial Bullingdon Club at Oxford University) and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was offered a high seat in the cabinet once the Conservatives gain power.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: