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September 10, 2010

Boris stands again; Boris Backer launched.

Boris Johnson today confirmed what everyone else had already guessed, by announcing his intention to stand for re-election as London Mayor. The fact that there had – over the past few weeks – been any doubt at all, is probably a sign of his political canniness. To (allegedly) threaten to quit if the Treasury didn’t provide the funding for Crossrail not only shows that he is willing to fight for London, but also gives the impression of independence from Downing Street.

Indeed, displays of independence will need to become increasingly regular as we get closer to 2012′s election. By then, the coalition government will be at the peak of their cuts programme and will – one assumes – be massively unpopular. If Boris bears much of the brunt of that unpopularity, he will surely lose.

Ironically, Boris could take advice on mayoral independence from his closest rival. The impression of independence that Ken Livingstone held, having actually won the 2000 mayoral election as an independent, helped him win the 2004 contest despite the government’s unpopularity over the war in Iraq, and finish a close second in 2008 despite Labour’s massive deficit in the polls.

The – presumed – desire of the public to give the Tories a kicking in a couple of years means that Boris now faces the battle of his life. His entire political career – including any hope he might still have of becoming Prime Minister (despite his protestations to the contrary: “I’m more likely to be decapitated by a Frisbee or locked in a disused fridge.”) – rests on him winning in 2012. He enters that battle, however, with a record to be proud of – even after just a couple of years in the job. Crime in London is down 6% since 2008, transport crime in London is down a massive 30% since 2008 and the murder rate in London is at its lowest since 1978 (all the more impressive when one remembers that crime traditionally increases during a recession). He has also (amongst other things) frozen his part of the Council Tax for two years, halted the western extension of the congestion charge, banned alcohol on public transport, started the phase-out of bendy buses, introduced free travel for old people, reduced rough sleeping in London by two-thirds, started work on the implementation of the new Routemaster, scrapped the Londoner newspaper (at a £3 million saving), launched the new Cycle Hire scheme and rescued a lady being attacked by a bunch of hooded “oiks”. [EDIT: click here for a list of 100 Boris achievements.]

This blog is launched with the primary – but not sole – aim of seeing Boris re-elected as Mayor of London in 2012. Readers (all two of them) should expect posts on the capital’s politics, on Boris, Ken, Oona and all the other candidates. Readers should expect regular comment on national politics and an occasional look at international politics. Readers should also expect regular posts on things entirely unrelated to politics – on sport, comedy, books, current affairs, cinema, cider and other assorted nonsense.

As a final thought, I should clarify what this blog will not be. As much as I want Boris to win in 2012 – that is, after all, this blog’s initial raison d’être – I’m not tribal enough to only ever see virtue in the blues, and wickedness in the reds. This blog will not exist as a fawning, reverential or sycophantic mouth-piece for Boris. When he, or the Conservatives, make a mistake, I’ll say so; when Ken or Oona (and it will surely be Ken who prevails in that particular tussle) or the Labour Party do something well, I’ll admit it (grudgingly). I welcome, too, constructive debate – either in the comments or on Twitter – with those who have alternative views to my own. Opposition is as important to politics as governance.

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