Yesterday London Region chair Jonathan Fryer outlined the timetable for selecting the party’s London Assembly and Mayor candidates. But who will be in the running to be the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London?
As previously covered, Lembit Opik has publicly declared his intention to go for the selection. Regular readers of this site will have seen how controversial that is amongst many Liberal Democrat members (along with other commenters on this site). He has some keen fans along with many ardent critics. The number of fans of his Mayor selection bid page on Facebook has moved up only slightly over the last week, to 185 at the time of writing.
Although no-one else has declared they are running for Mayor yet, there are several other names which frequently come up. Chatting to members around London in the last few weeks, many have said how, were it not for the party being in coalition, they would have liked to see Lynne Featherstone or Sarah Teather be the candidate. With both being ministers that is firmly off the agenda.
Susan Kramer’s run for Mayor in 2000 is the candidature remembered the most fondly by most people who have seen all three Lib Dem Mayor campaigns, but it would be a return to her past. Having been an MP in the interim, Susan Kramer would at least have a reason to argue why she might be a more successful Mayor candidate second time round. That would be a challenge too for Brian Paddick, who has a CV well suited for the role of Mayor and a record of taking on tabloid newspapers which are unpopular with Liberal Democrat activists. (He has sued the Mail for libel successfully and is currently one of those involved in taking legal action against the News of the World over phone hacking allegations.) With a distant third place last time, however, he would have to find a convincing answer to the question, “Why do you think you would do much better this time round?”
Leaving aside Guido’s excitement about Tim Campbell, the more interesting and far more likely high profile candidate would be Floella Benjamin. Recently appointed to the House of Lords, she has an impressive track record in educational and charity work aside from the memories of her as one of the country’s most popular children’s TV presenters. Relatively new to prominence in the party, her main challenge would be to persuade many who know of her TV work that she would also make an effective Liberal Democrat candidate. Many of those who have met her at Liberal Democrat events have come away enthused about her ability.
One question all of the actual runners will face as they emerge is, “Are you serious about trying to win?” For many activists, an enthusiastic “yes” to that question will in fact be off-putting, as the party’s chances of gaining seats on the London Assembly are much higher than those of winning the Mayor contest. But would a campaign whose headline figure isn’t upbeat about winning end up doing even worse?
Either way, the smart candidate will position themselves as an effective member of a team of candidates rather than as someone who is just about wanting to win votes in the Mayor contest.