Yesterday witnessed a London mayoral hustings in which all of the conceivable candidates for said position spoke. Those who were there and I consider reliable witnesses claim that Sadiq really won the night, with Zac being a little flat (and predictably, Galloway getting way too much floor time as he refused to shut up). There was one interesting moment when Zac had to talk about the fact that his only sizeable donation to his campaign thus far is a 50,000 pound one – from his mum. Sadiq made a pretty good joke out of this, while Sian Berry used Sadiq’s joke to have a sort of female David Brent moment (believe me, you don’t want to know more about it, I’ll simply be ruining your day).
But rewind back to the £50k from Zac’s mum – what’s going on here? Why aren’t the Tories putting money into Zac’s run at taking over from Boris? This got me thinking in a way I never had before on the issue of the London mayor race in relation to the Conservative Party: is it possible, just possible, that the Tories don’t want Zac to win? Not, I hasten to add, because they want to punish Goldsmith’s serial rebellion – they aren’t that petty. No, what I mean is, could it be possible that the Tories want Sadiq to win in London since it will help Corbyn stay on as leader of the Labour Party? Think about it: Labour are going to get crushed in Scotland, that is all but done. Local elections in England will range from terrible to brutal for Labour. The situation in Wales looks pretty bad. Perhaps, the Conservative high command think, the only hope is Sadiq? That if Khan can win, then Jeremy lives to fight another day, which is very much in the broader Tory interest. Labour look down and out now, but if they could get themselves an electable leader, they could be up and running again for real in a short period of time (and with miles to go before the next general election). Best to ensure that he stays leader by throwing in the towel on London?
I spoke to a very good friend of mine on this, someone who is pretty much always right about these sorts of things. She said that while it’s easy to speculate about something like the Tories not wanting Zac to win, the truth is that in politics, raw partisan feeling always win the day. In other words, whatever the pros and cons of Zac Goldsmith being the next mayor of London for broader Conservative interests, every Tory will still be pushing as hard as they can for him to win until May. Because in the end, a win is a win, whatever it does to the make up of the enemy. I concluded she was almost certainly right, as she usually is on stuff like this.
Still, is anyone other than Zac’s mum going to help him try and win? I hope so for his sake.
I agree with your friend that nobody in politics ever sets out deliberately to lose, for long-term strategic reasons.
However, having said that… some fights seem more vital to win than others, and some, well, some it looks like whatever happens, you win in one way or another.
So while they will definitely be fighting to win, it’s just possible that the sense of danger, the knowledge that you need this, might be lacking, and as a result a certain complacency might be setting in, that allows the attention to drift.
I mean, is there another vote coming up that the Conservatives might be thinking about?
Interesting hypothesis, Nick. Perhaps the other reason is that Zac as Mayor would be a pain in the bum over LHR 3rd Runway, whereas it is much easier to deal with Zac resigning as an MP – and if Sadiq decides to go off on one about the 3rd runway, then it is easier to paint Labour as economically irresponsible. Just a thought!
Steve Comer says
I think Toby has hit the nail on the head. The Government would find it much easier to back Heathrow expansion if Zac G. lost. There would be problems with a few MPs, but then a decision in favour of Gatwick or Stansted would produce similar problems with MPs.
I can’t see Corbyn being removed this year, Labour are already expecting bad news in Scotland, and possibly some net losses at Council level but a win in London (and Wales?) will help stifle any plot against Jeremy.