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Comment: Is Mayor Boris to return to Westminster via Hertsmere?
There is something about the parliamentary seats in south west Hertfordshire that makes them very tempting for elected mayors. Mayor Dorothy Thornhill’s shilly-shallying over whether to stand for the Watford seat next year has been well documented in this column.
Now there are rumours she could be joined in this bizarre political paradigm by Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
The sudden announcement by Hertsmere MP James Clappison that he won’t be seeking a sixth term in the House of Commons next year has prompted speculation the seat could be Boris’s way back into Westminster.
Now this may come as something of a surprise to voters in Hertsmere. Boris is quite obviously the Mayor of London and has been elected to the post until 2016.
Also, the mayor has not said anything openly that would link him to the soon-to-be-vacant seat.
Nevertheless, Boris’s ambition to be Prime Minister is not even an open secret any more – it’s pretty much an established fact.
And to be Prime Minister you need to be in Parliament.
Also, May 2015 could be a fairly opportune time for anyone nursing such ambitions to be knocking around the Palace of Westminster.
As in the event the Conservatives don’t win a majority and David Cameron falls on his sword, you’d be handily in situ for the ensuing leadership battle.
Hertsmere figures into the equation as in this scenario it is the perfect Westminster berth for Boris. For starters it’s on the outskirts of London, conveniently close to his day job. It is also as safe a Conservative seat as you’ll find.
Since the constituency was created in 1983 it has always returned Conservative candidates with no less than 44 per cent of the vote share.
The outgoing Mr Clappison is bequeathing his successor an unassailable majority of 17,600. For any Conservative candidate, the seat is essentially a job for life.
At the moment the speculation about Boris making a snap return to Parliament, via Hertsmere, remains just that: speculation.
Yet it’s easy to see why City Hall’s dishevelled blond is being linked with the vacancy.
In the meantime, the people in Hertsmere are actually faced with a rare event – a change in their representation in the nation’s legislative body.
The event is rare because of the constituency’s aforementioned status as a safe seat.
Under the current electoral system, General Elections are something of a formality in Hertsmere. Whichever candidate the Hertsmere Conservative Association selects knows the job is pretty much theirs until they or the local party decide otherwise.
With that in mind, it would be a nice gesture to our participation-starved democracy for the Hertsmere association to open up the usually clandestine selection process to the wider electorate by making it an open primary.
Since 2009, the Conservatives have trialled this method, which allow members of the public to attend (and in some cases participate in) the vote for the party’s candidates.
Seeing as this is the only meaningful Parliamentary election in Hertsmere until the next Conservative selection (or until there is radical electoral reform), it might be an idea to open it up beyond the association’s 220 odd members.