Amid rumblings about the government machine, the rumour reaches FT Westminster that Downing Street approached Tim Montgomerie – editor of the ConservativeHome blog – to join the ship. But he said no.
Montgomerie, a former aide to Iain Duncan Smith, is an influential figure in the party who understands its internal mechanics as well as anyone. He has also become rather critical of the Tory hierarchy in recent months; making it obvious why the government might want him inside the tent, facing outwards.
Ken Livingstone was the star turn at today’s lobby lunch in the House of Commons and the Labour mayoral contender gave a robust turn as always. And yet.
Those looking for clues as to why he is not the favourite to win the May 3 elections could see one or two signposts during his speech and subsequent Q&A.
Livingstone is still a larger-than-life character, for sure, with a fun turn of phrase. He has an enviable track record – with arguably more achievements by far than his rival Boris Johnson.
But in several areas Ken’s demeanour was less “let sunshine win the day” than “let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.”
1] He predicted a London with 9m people in the next decade, creaking at the seams, with not enough housing and a public transport system collapsing under the weight of the over-population. This dystopian vision may turn out to be true, but it is far from positive.
2] He tried to present himself as the “ugly” candidate who wants to concentrate on the “boring” issues. Britain is going further down the US-style presidential system, he warned. Boris Johnson was merely a comedian who made people laugh – and what was the good of that? (“If I wanted to make you laugh I’d have become a comedian.”) The whole argument ignored the fact that Ken is himself a one-man brand who – until Boris came along – thrived on being an outsider, a joker, a rebel. It sounded a little like sour grapes.
3] He tried to shoot the messenger. In the good old days there used to be regular journalistic coverage of the GLC, he recalled. But when he announced his housing strategy in Kilburn there was only one journalist there. He cited “Flat Earth News” to paint the entire journo profession as a bunch of churnalists failing to carry