What if Boris doesn’t stand?
Without wanting to give any credence to the stories of a Boris v Dave rivalry, with Number 10 as the ultimate prize, this past week was not the first time that there have been rumblings that Boris Johnson might not want to spend 8 years running City Hall.
You can never tell, especially with his public persona, whether the faux-modesty and claims of no higher ambition are to be taken seriously. There were plenty of people who scoffed when it was announced he was going to try and unseat Red Ken – they were forced to eat their words. With the exception of some hardened Labourite friends of mine, the only group of people I know who seem overwhelmingly opposed to Boris becoming Prime Minister are younger members of the Conservative Party. I don’t find the idea of Boris becoming Prime Minister particularly far-fetched – the decision, not doubt, will become clear soon enough. William Hills have Boris at 8/1 second-favourite to succeed Cameron as Tory leader (Hague 3/1f).
So then to London, and I was taking a fresh look at the Ladbrokes markets today. I was struck by the strangeness of the candidates with realistic odds. If we are not to see Boris and Ken standing again, then this market is stuffed full of value. I don’t think Sir Alan Sugar (16/1) is a realistic candidate, and I cannot see even as popular a celebrity as Vince Cable (25/1) winning the London Mayoralty for the Liberal Democrats (though he could come close to second place in the first round).
So after Jon Cruddas (16/1), Suralan and Vince, all seven remaining candidates at 50/1 or better are from the Labour Party. Five are BME (Trevor Phillips, Dianne Abbot, Oona King, David Lammy and Dawn Butler), and four are women (three aforementioned, plus Tessa Jowell, Minister for London). Given that I think Dawn Butler stands a better chance of losing her seat than Jon Cruddas, I think the value is likely in this group. For transparency’s sake, I have a Â£10 bet on Oona King at odds of 100/1.
What is striking is that, for all the talk about Boris possibly not standing for a second term, there are no other Conservatives on the Ladbrokes list. PB.com regulars will remember the struggle that Cameron faced finding a candidate before Boris stepped up to the plate – so if he should choose not to run again, but rather seek a path back into Parliament, who would the Conservatives run?
I’d like to see London Tories like Deputy Mayors Richard Barnes and Kit Malthouse added to the market – the GLA members and long-standing councillors who would likely step into the breach if Boris only stood for the one term. Indeed, if the Mayor does not complete his term (a tailor-made by-election in late 2011 perhaps) then one of them would likely run with the benefit of incumbancy. As a long shot, I’d take any bet over 25/1 on James Cleverley if it were offered.
If Boris does run again, Labour will need a good candidate to topple him. Cruddas could be that, but I cannot see him losing his seat (tactical voting by Lib Dems to stop the BNP would make him safe). Failing that, I think Oona King would stand a better chance than anyone else on the list for Labour – if only she could be persuaded to stand. She is now at 50/1 – and I think that’s good value.