It is a nightmare scenario, probably for Tories as much as the rest of Croydon’s residents, and certainly for all Londoners.
But greedy Steve O’Connell, at one time the most overpaid local councillor in Britain (© The Daily Wail), could yet become the Mayor of London. If only for a brief period. And certainly not as the result of a proper election.
This unlikely, unwanted and unwarranted promotion of the former mortgage salesman, turned Kenley councillor and London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton has been made a possibility because of the manner in which the Conservative Party has doled out selections for safe parliamentary seats.
It is a situation created by Boris Johnson, and arises only because Westminster is clearly far more important to his and other money-grabbing Tories’ political careers than the jobs they are paid to do at City Hall.
Johnson is seeking a return to parliament in the Tory safe seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip at the General Election on May 7. If Boris marches triumphantly back into Westminster but the Conservatives fail to form the next Government, the chances are that he will soon be contesting the Tory Party leadership. Any promises that Johnson would continue as Mayor of London to the end of his term, in 2016, would go out the window.
And following the selection in Kensington last week of Lady Borwick, one of Boris’s deputy mayors, the options for Johnson to pass his responsibilities on to someone else are becoming notably thin.
Victoria Borwick (who gets her title as the wife of a Tory peer), is standing down as deputy mayor to run in Kensington, while a second deputy mayor, Kit Malthouse, and James Cleverley, another senior Tory at City Hall, are also set to become MPs at the General Election and so would be unable to fill-in for Boris, probably from around November until a new Mayor of London is elected. Andrew Boff, a fourth potential Boris substitute until May 2016, won’t take the job because he wants to be the Tory candidate for London Mayor next year.
Once you eliminate the Tory London figures who look to have a modicum of competency and ability, you are left with the likes of O’Connell and Dick Tracey (no, not that one; the former MP and probably the worst Minister for Sport ever to claim his free tickets for the FA Cup final).
O’Connell, who at one stage was pocketing nearly £120,000 a year in state-funded “allowances” and other payments for his various roles at City Hall and Croydon Town Hall, has never been slow in coming forward to take on extra jobs when there’s been a juicy sum of money attached.
And last year, when his erstwhile boss in Croydon, Mike #WadGate Fisher, had his hand in the allowances cookie jar, O’Connell was one of the other Tory councillors who came close to trying to top-up their already generous allowances in secret.
Whether O’Connell has actually been effective as a voice for Croydon and Sutton at City Hall, however, is a matter of little dispute: even his Conservative Party colleagues concede that he has done little effective work as an Assembly Member. The idea that O’Connell might soon have to stand-in for Boris Johnson, however temporarily, therefore probably fills the Tories with as much dread as his political opponents.
“London will be left treading water until 2016 as Boris and his advisers set off to pursue their own personal ambitions,” Len Duvall AM, the Labour group leader at the London Assembly, told the Evening Boris, which dutifully buried this embarrassing story on page 30 last night.
There’s no guarantee, of course, that O’Connell will even still be a London Assembly Member after next year’s Assembly elections, though who will stand against him for Labour in Croydon and Sutton has yet to be decided.
Louisa Woodley, now a councillor for New Addington, managed to reduce O’Connell’s majority significantly in 2012 in a constituency which has always been held by the Conservatives since the London Assembly was formed. But the local Labour leadership is seriously considering the energetic approach of ambitious Ashburton councillor Stephen Mann, who looks so youthful, he was accused of “being a student dropping off leaflets” when out canvassing recently.
- Pigs and dead dukes more important for O’Connell than TfL
- #WadGate: O’Connell and Mohan join Fisher’s infamous five
- O’Connell: I wouldn’t be so silly as to take £500 per day
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