What can Laurence Fox hope to achieve with his bid for London mayor?

7 March 2021

5:58 AM

7 March 2021

5:58 AM

As if the politics of the Western world wasn’t well past parody already, this weekend sees Laurence Fox throwing his hat into the ring to be London’s next mayor. Before I start making fun of this idea, let’s try and give Mr Fox the benefit of the doubt.

The London mayoral contest, which should have been put out of its misery last May, has been dragged into 2021 on account of the coronavirus crisis. The extra year hasn’t made the contest any more inviting to those of us who live in the capital. We still have an incumbent Labour mayor who is a disappointment on every possible level, but who is up against such a terrible flock of competitors, re-election is all but in the bag for him.

The Tories chose very poorly in Shaun Bailey. A Brexiteer and proper conservative type, he’s so wrong for London it’s almost comic. The left-wing press has had a field day flagging up every time Bailey goes off-piste, which for the record is fairly often. It makes me wonder why the Tories are so defeatist when it comes to winning the London mayoral contest. Boris himself won it two times in a row, not all that long ago either, something they should remind themselves of every once in a while.

In fact, Johnson should act as a blueprint for how the Tories could win in London. It’s not that complicated: get a liberal, or at least someone who can pose as one, who is entertaining and could make Khan look boring and like last year’s news. Someone likeable whose politics aren’t a million miles from the denizens of the capital. So, metropolitan liberal elitism is electorally good for a change, in other words.

Anyhow, the Tories have no chance of winning, that much is obvious. As for every other party apart from the big two, well, that’s such a poor crop let’s not even bother going there. What I’m getting at here is this: I get how Laurence Fox could look at the current contest and see that there was at least theoretically an opening available. Everyone here sucks, why not give it a go, in other words. Except, Laurence Fox is even more wrong for London than Shaun Bailey.

The actor’s brand of anti-lockdown, anti-masks and anti-wokeness will play nowhere in the entire country worse than its capital city. Has he never noticed what London is like politically? While Labour has turned most of the rest of the country off by being almost the literal opposite of Laurence Fox, the voters of London have lapped that sort of thing up hungrily. While it has long been a hotbed of Labourism, the capital’s shift to the far left on cultural issues has seen Labour MPs in the city go from healthy majorities to insane, North Korean style figures — such as David Lammy getting 82 per cent of the vote in his constituency in the 2017 general election, as just one for instance.

How on Earth does Fox think he stands a chance in London?

Here’s the thing — if Laurence Fox is serious about politics, he should become a Tory. End of. He will get nowhere with this new party and I can’t see this bid to be London’s mayor being anything other than an embarrassment for him. But then again, I guess it’s like when I try to consider what Farage is doing with Reform — perhaps it’s not political victory that is being sought here.

Running for mayor of London gets you airtime, particularly if you’re someone with a huge social media profile who divides opinion sharply. Maybe the idea is to keep the relevance ball in the air as long as possible — in other words, running for mayor might be one big publicity stunt.

Fine if so, but there’s a big problem with this approach. In politics, if you don’t have a genuine goal you are trying to achieve, your relevance will wane extremely quickly. If you don’t believe me, ask the Liberal Democrats. Fox says he wants to stand for those who are being silenced. All right, but there are about a thousand different ways I can think of to do that which would all be more successful than running a failed campaign to be the mayor of a city that collectively believes the antithesis of your personal values.

Like starting his own political party, this is a bad move by Laurence Fox. At best, he can make Bailey’s loss in May even more significantly worse than it would be otherwise, a strange ambition for Fox to say the least; at worst, he finishes in sixth place behind the Monster Raving Loony party. Some things in politics are simple: don’t fight where you can’t win. Laurence Fox might have to learn this the hard way.

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