Tuesday 11 May 2021

The Ambitions of Mayors

We all know that every soldier has a field marshal's baton in his knapsack, and that every MP wants to be PM.  Theoretically.  If it were to be handed to them on a plate.

But there are degrees of ambition; and not every MP has the kind of relentless Julius-Caesar ambition that stops at nothing.  Those that do, while they do, think of little else, every waking moment.  Asleep, they dream about it.  To the extent you can identify those ones (steam issuing from the ears is usually a sign), whenever something big goes down it's always fun to watch and to speculate how they see it; how the event impacts on them; how they try to turn it to their advantage.  

It's pretty clear that the advent of elected mayors in the UK provided a form of outdoor relief for the Truly Ambitious to essay the Caesar-in-Gaul trick.  First out of the blocks was Ken Livingstone, a man of boundless self-confidence and chutzpah - but the timing didn't work for him: he never stood a chance of nipping in ahead of Gordon Brown.  By the time of the 2010 Labour leadership vacancy, he was pretty vacant himself, a busted flush shouting at people in the street.

Boris, by contrast, worked it all to his advantage and a couple of lucky breaks later, here we all are.

Which brings us to the current difficulties of Sir K.Starmer.  Who'll be figuring out the next phase of their strategies now?  

By some accounts, none other than Angela Rayner (41) works permanently and purposefully to advance her own cause.  She certainly showed infinitely more fight in her own crisis than Rebecca Long Bailey in either of hers (x divided by 0 being infinity), with a gaggle of outriders in the field to cover her flanks with the meeja.  (RLB had an army ready to do her bidding: but she never blew on the horn.)

But Exhibit A is Sadiq Khan.  I probably don't need to convince you that he is firmly set on the Top Job.  Those mayoral roles, of course, come with the perils of fixed-term schedules, but Boris finessed that by re-entering the Commons a year before his London term ended.  We may confidently assume Khan expected to do the same, probably in 2023.  But will he now feel that's too late?   Starmer looks like he might implode before that; and in any event, Boris may pull the GE trigger before then, too.  Can Khan be sure Starmer's successor will be equally short-lived in post?  He's 50 now; how strong a challenge could he mount at 60, say?   Logically, he has to be in Parliament no later than at the time of the next GE.

I don't think we should be surprised if he seeks a "dual mandate" (as it's known) at the first opportunity: a nice, diverse Zone 2 parliamentary seat.  He's sufficiently transactional, he might even force that opportunity by getting someone to resign for him; though I'm not sure Labour Party rules would give him any certainty of being put on a by-election ballot paper, whatever the locals might want, if the Starmer machine retains executive power ...  Decisions, decisions.  One thing's certain: he'll be on manoeuvres at all times, and (for anyone even vaguely amused by this stuff) his public utterances should be monitored with interest.  As a minimum, watch him claim titular championship of the supposed new Labour bedrock of metro-bedsits and diversities.

This all tends to make us look in the direction of Manchester to that other mayoral paragon, lovable little Andy Burnham (51).  In principle, all the same structural considerations apply to him.  But ... does he strike us as in the same league, ambition-wise?  My best guess is that he wouldn't force the pace proactively, and is more in the "if it fell in my lap ..." category.

Any other foaming-at-the-mouth candidates we can spot in the ranks of the People's Party?  And what will they be up to next?



dearieme said...

Guido Fawkes says that Angela Whatsit is having an affair with a married man. In the Boris era I don't suppose anyone will give a hoot. But did she find him a safe seat? Nobody much would care about that either, would they?

Anyway, a cousin of mine, usually a Labour voter, dislikes Khan so vehemently that he's taken to voting Conservative.

decnine said...

If there isn't already a collective noun for Mayors, an ambition would be a good candidate.

Anonymous said...

Labour - in whatever form, at whatever level - are toast. The UK is now a 2-party system; the "English" Conservatives in the south and "Scottish" SNP in the north.

As long as Boris continues to bash the EU and the SNP, the Conservative party are safe as they can count on a majority at Westminster to make the other nations in the Union to dance to their tune.

Culture wars depends on numbers, and Boris has them.

BlokeInBrum said...

Can anyone explain the appeal of Khan?
I don't swim in London-centric circles and don't know of anyone who likes him.
Yet the buggers keep reelecting him.
What's his secret?

Nick Drew said...

Let me try. I described him as "transactional". This means, he is always trading, power for advancement, actions for advantage. (PS, I do NOT mean bulging brown envelopes.) A constituent goes to him for help. Instead of the broadly altruistic response most politcos offer (in the unstated hope that vote and future support will follow), with Transactionals it's an open quid pro quo. (Though not uniquely Asian - I've met plenty of shameless "entrepreneurial" white pols - it is pretty characteristic, on both sides: "Can I count on your support?" "What's in it for me, then?")

He's good at it. He's relentless. He's imaginative enough to see the leverage opportunities. He delivers. He's successful.

Now: when a certain type of political jackal sees an operator like this in action, they think: there are some meaty bones in this for me, if I follow yonder lion around, & maybe offer him some help with the hunt. They may be after what they can get personally / vicariously; and/or they may be thinking: he can advance our [factional] Cause. Boris has always been surrounded by people like that - some of them very dodgy indeed - as has Khan. In the latter's case, in the Tooting days it was a clique of soft-left, exclusively white young would-be movers and shakers of the London Labour Party. The mayoral nomination was never in doubt, when he'd decided that was the way to go. He had a serious team.

As Mayor, he now has unlimited political resources (for all practical purposes). This is the massive attraction of a mayoralty.

Finally, of course, he has a good nose for the main chance and is a shameless "over-promiser". Hardly alone in that! Oh, and just to round things off, he likes to lay claim to the sub-continent ethnic vote, which he cultivates endlessly. But hey, (a) everyone tries to max out on their natural advantages (whatever anyone says about Shaun Bailey, he certainly has done exactly that, to surprisingly good effect); (b) you should see just any vote-hungry London politico in action, of whatever race: in Croydon a few years ago our (Tory) man absolutely prostrated himself to a very large Sri Lankan faction we have; and a later candidate did the same to a black religious cult ..! (c) it's very two-edged: for example, in Tooting there are several Asian religious factions who all hate each other cordially - there are small signs in some Asian restaurant windows in native languages, stating who's welcome and who's not - and so for every vote he garners in one group, he stands to lose it in another.

Does anybody like him?? I'd say no: in Labour circles he's a byword for total (political) untrustworthiness. But (again, like Boris) ... He's A Winner! He's a bastard, but he's our bastard. That's more than enough for very many people.

E-K said...

I thought that Britain had voted against this regional 'Mayor' type rule.

Anonymous said...

If Sadiq Khan were to stand for PM I would hope that he gets the same grilling about his Islamic faith as Tim Farron got about his Christian faith.
He should have have got it before to be honest.
Does he think homosexuality is a sin?
Does he think child marriage is ok? Did Muhammad marry a 9 year old - was this ok?

Don Cox said...

If Khan manages to become PM, he will want to change the constitution so that he can be President for life, like Putin, Mugabe, and others.

The lust for power over others is a dangerous form of mental illness and such psychopaths should probably be kept in secure institutions. It is not the same as wanting to be a good manager or run a successful business.

Don Cox

Nick Drew said...

I would hope that he gets the same grilling ...

Have you not seen his style, under questioning? He answers with a splurge of ultra-rapid sounds that he hopes you will mistake for words, but are in fact meaningless.

and all with a pained and slightly angry glare, which tells the reporter they've gone too far already and had better back off straight away

he is a real operator

Elby the Beserk said...

If Labour truly wish to slit their own throat (as it seems they do), then no better way to do it than elect Khan as Leader.

Go for it

Elby the Beserk said...

"Blogger Nick Drew said...
I would hope that he gets the same grilling ...

Have you not seen his style, under questioning? He answers with a splurge of ultra-rapid sounds that he hopes you will mistake for words, but are in fact meaningless.

and all with a pained and slightly angry glare, which tells the reporter they've gone too far already and had better back off straight away

he is a real operator

10:03 am"

The finest example of this is I think from the London Assembly, where presented with the appalling rise in hard crime under his "stewardship", Khan is asked if he still believes London is a safer city under him. Absolutely so, he insists.

Shoddy, chippy little demagogue.

Anonymous said...

Mayors, mares - I see what you did there! Naughty.

BlokeInBrum said...


I think thats what youre referring to Elby.

I saw that earlier and had it in mind when I asked why people keep voting for him.

I found it personally quite unbelievable - the front on this guy!

Our host says his success is down to him being 'transactional'.

I get that, but how does that translate to actual votes from a public that from what I've seen, doesn't like him.
Someone, somewhere keeps voting for him, and in large numbers, so where is his voting bloc, and what do they get out of it?

It certainly isn't crime prevention.

Elby the Beserk said...

@blokeinbrum 1:33pm

That's the one. And he has enough of a client state that, accompanied by lover voter turn out, he's back in. And aiming to stay there I gather.

Matt said...

The lack of any obvious talent for anything other than shameless self-promotion in any of the major parties is a reflection on the electorate IMHO.

Too hooked into watching reality TV and/or singing contents, keeping up the PCP on the over-priced German motor and keeping their fingers crossed that the interest only mortgage on the executive slave box will somehow pay off.

The latter is a ponzi scheme that at some point will collapse and the country is screwed.

E-K said...

So SAGE members are agitating for a cancellation of freedom day based on 'infection rates' for the Indian variant (not death rates.)

E-K said...

And why is the possibility that we may be suffering domestic CV-19 terrorism ever discussed ?

In fact until proven that it isn't happening it should be taken as a fact.

E-K said...

Sorry to bang on but... St Paul's Cathedral under threat of permanent closure because of lockdown. (Turn it into London Central mosque)

The local Blue Cross animal hospitals closing here. (So much for legislation for sentient animals.)

And I still don't know anyone who's died of CV-19. Now it may be the case that the two people I know who were seriously ill with CV-19 were saved by lockdown but I can just as easily claim that the three people I know who died during this period were killed by it. In fact it's obvious that they were.

We cannot afford to go on like this.

lilith said...

EK, I am as angry with Justin Welby as I am with the Government. How dare he close the churches?!! No comfort from the Church...Pfizer is the New God. It's just so marvellously sciency to be told our only hope lies in an experimental jab.....

Sadiq Khan is a piece of work.

Don Cox said...

" Now it may be the case that the two people I know who were seriously ill with CV-19 were saved by lockdown"

It may well be the case that some of the people you know who didn't catch the virus were saved by lockdown.

In a few years, we will have comparative studies of infection and death rates in various places around the world that did or did not apply lockdowns. This will be useful to know when the next pandemic arrives.

Don Cox

lilith said...

Don, it may be true that my mother is still alive because of lockdown. It may have more to do with her pacemaker or her ability to heal rapidly. However important she is to me I don't accept that locking up and impoverishing healthy people is necessary to protect her. The best thing anyone can do for their elderly is keep them out of hospital/care homes.

lilith said...

Furthermore, Mother has deteriorated so much from not getting out and about that lockdown has almost certainly shortened her life expectancy anyway.

lilith said...

As for Labour Party foamers with ambition....I will miss staring in horror at Annalise Dodds. We need the entertainment.

lilith said...

This guy is cogent and articulate

Jan said...

"The best thing anyone can do for their elderly is keep them out of hospital/care homes."

I agree lilith. It may be harsh to say it but for all those people moaning about not being able to visit their relatives in care homes they could always look after them themselves.

As has been proven during the pandemic, going into a care home can be deadly.