Following a slow start to the Conservative mayoral candidate contest, the last 48 hours have seen ‘celebrity’ contenders Sol Campbell and Zac Goldsmith throw their hats into the ring.
Their entry brings glamour to a Tory race in which, up until now, the only entrants were largely unknown to the public.
Deputy Mayor Stephen Greenhalgh, Leader of the Assembly Group and Andrew Boff are solid rather than exciting.
Nor is entrepreneur and gay rights campaigner Ivan Massow a household name.
Promising to ‘bring something new to the table’, former England footballer Campbell must have hoped his decision to run would grab the headlines.
But his announcement was immediately eclipsed by Goldsmith’s decision to run just 24 hours later.
He brought immediate excitement to the contest not only as one of the Conservative’s most outspoken MPs but also because he said his candidature depended on his Richmond Park constituents.
Having just been re-elected to Westminster, with an increased 23,000 majority, he feels it is only fair to ask for their consent to stand.
He doesn’t have much time to get their permission. With the Conservative Way Forward mayoral hustings on 4th July, Zac’s postal survey will require a very quick turnaround.
Goldsmith is unlikely to be the last candidate to declare. Syed Kamall the respected London MEP and former London MP Nick de Bois are also expected to run.
But he may be the most likely Tory to upset the accepted wisdom that Labour will take the post when Boris steps down.
Despite their poor performance in the country as a whole, Labour did reasonably well in the capital and have five strong local and popular MPs running to be their candidate.
For the Conservatives to hold onto the Mayor’s post, they need someone able to reach across political boundaries.
On paper, Zac’s back story as a wealthy old Etonian may seem a disadvantage. But his reputation as a liberal free thinking environmental campaigner has set him apart from his party.
Jenny Jones, London Assembly member and Green peer has already suggested that her party might give their second preference to him.
‘Many of us very much like that he comes across as very green and committed and passionate,” she explains.
With William Hill are offering odds of 8/11 on Zac winning the candidacy, the Conservative mayoral contest – and the 2016 election – has suddenly heated up.
Whether having such a maverick figure as London Mayor would, in the long run, make life easier for a Conservative Government may, of course, be a very different story.
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