Why Boris Johnson victory was crucial for Conservatives
Published: 4th May 2012 23:59:31
The important thing for the Conservatives is not that Boris Johnson won. The important thing is that he did not lose.
If Ken Livingstone had been elected mayor of London, the risk is that the Conservatives would have been plunged into disarray.
For weeks ministers have told me privately that however bad the local elections were, they could at least rely on Boris being re-elected in the capital.
Asked what would happen if he did not win, they would shrug their shoulders and mutter darkly about meltdown and panic and headless chickens. "We would be in a different place then," said one.
So by winning, albeit by a narrow margin, Mr Johnson provides his party not just with electoral cover for a grim set of local election results, he also prevents the Tories descending into an outbreak of infighting the like of which they have not seen since opposition.
Many Conservative MPs are new, they have known only good times. The fear among some of the old guard, particularly those tempered by the dark days of the Major years, is that the new generation of MPs might begin to panic and cast around for new policies and, perhaps, even new leadership.
The Conservative right would push even harder for tougher policies on crime, immigration and Europe. A Queen's Speech focused on Lords reform would be unthinkable. And the party's modernisers around Mr Cameron would find themselves under siege as never before.
So Boris Johnson's victory does not mean the Tories are on track to win the general election. It does not allow the Tories to dismiss the results in the rest of the UK as mid-term blues. But his victory does mean the Tories do not face an existential debate about their future that few parties can survive in government.
For some Tories, success in London is proof that Boris Johnson's core Conservative policies work and should therefore be adopted by David Cameron. They talk of his support for lower taxes, his willingness to back bankers in the face of widespread public censure, and his readiness to take on Europe. They note his ability to cross party boundaries and win votes from across the electoral market.
But other Tories say, no, Mr Johnson's appeal comes not from his so-called authentic conservatism, but from his unique brand of personality politics that transcends party politics. They say he is popular with Labour and other voters, not because of his Tory values, but despite them.
On the BBC shortly before the result the pollster Peter Kelner paraphrased the song from the Sound of Music and declared, "Boris makes the people laugh".
For Londoners, victory for Mr Johnson means of course that there will be none of Ken Livingstone's promised fare cuts, extra police or help with child care. Instead, there is Mr Johnson's promise - note promise - of less waste at City Hall, fewer tube delays and fewer council tax rises.
And as for Boris Johnson himself, well he now has another four years in City Hall. That is four years when he is probably not a potential candidate for a Westminster by-election, four years when the speculation about his leadership ambitions can float harmlessly up the Thames.
But after four years, well, who knows. The important thing for the Conservatives is not that Boris won. The important thing is that he did not lose.
· All the latest election results are available at bbc.co.uk/vote2012
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Why Boris Johnson victory was crucial for Conservatives [Online] (Updated 4th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1426684/Why-Boris-Johnson-victory-was-crucial-for-Conservatives [Accessed 12th Mar 2014]
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With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com