The race for the Conservative party nomination for Mayor of London became more interesting today with the revelation that the party’s Higher Education spokesman Boris Johnson is seriously considering throwing his hat into the ring.
If Mr Johnson, one of the most popular Tory MPs in the country, does decide to run it will end the ambitions of two gay prospective candidates.
Earlier this week Nick Boles, an openly gay man who was easily the most prominent prospective candidate, withdrew from the race to undergo treatment for cancer.
Andrew Boff, a 48-year-old IT professional, is a gay Tory who wants to run for the party in May 2008.
He is the former leader of Hillingdon council but failed to be elected Mayor of Hackney.
Richard Barnes is another gay Tory former leader of Hillingdon who wants to be Mayor.
He is currently London Assembly member for Ealing and Hillingdon.
Other under-the-radar hopefuls include the voluptuously-named Lurline Champagnie and Warwick Lightfoot.
The contest to find a candidate who can beat incumbent Ken Livingstone has been beset by bad luck and negative publicity.
Last year Tory leader David Cameron extended the deadline for selecting the party’s candidate in order to attract a ‘name’ that London voters would recognise.
A very public attempt to persuade Labour supporter and former director-general of the BBC Greg Dyke to run on a joint Tory/Lib Dem ticket ended in humiliating failure.
Other names, from former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens to former Prime Minister John Major, have all been mentioned but no-one seems keen to try to take on the seemingly unbeatable incumbent.
Obscure former Radio 1 DJ Mike Read wants the nomination and LBC talk radio host Nick Ferrari toyed with the idea of standing.
But with less than a year to go until polling day Mr Johnson, not gay but a firm favourite with voters of all sexualities, may be in the frame.
“Being Mayor of London would be a fantastic job and anyone who loves London would want to consider the possibility very carefully,” he said yesterday.
“I want to stress that this idea did not come from David Cameron or from anyone in his office but I have, of course, been very struck by the number of people who have been urging me to run.
“In my case there are huge obstacles – above all my commitment and responsibility to my constituency.
“It is hard to see how those difficulties could be overcome – but I am ruling nothing out.”
Mr Johnson, the MP for Henley since 2001, is best known for his appearances on TV panel show Have I Got News For You and for his knack of insulting the populations of regional English cities.
His forthright views on Liverpool – “deeply unattractive psyche” – and Portsmouth – “one of the most depressed towns in Southern England … full of drugs, obesity, underachievement and Labour MPs” – might endear him to London-centric voters.
Today’s editorial in London’s Evening Standard is enthusiastic about a Boris candidacy:
“The mayoral election has to be a real contest. We need a debate that matches our city’s character: open, loud, vibrant, free-wheeling. Boris Johnson should stand.”