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Comment: will mayor prove a Thornhill in MP Harrington’s side?
The question of whether Mayor Dorothy Thornhill will run for MP next year still hovers over the mayoral race unanswered. One person who will be awaiting the resolution to that mystery more keenly than most is current MP Richard Harrington.
The Conservative’s re-election hopes could depend on a strong showing from the Liberal Democrats to prevent their vote collapsing and going to Labour in 2015.
For this to happen, the party needs a strong candidate. Someone who can galvanise the local branch and spearhead an impassioned campaign.
According to these criteria Mayor Thornhill would fit the bill better than any other candidate. Yet if she does decide to stand next year, Mr Harrington may find he gets more than he bargains for.
Firstly, the Liberal Democrats feel part of the reason they narrowly missed out in 2010 was that they concentrated too much firepower on the town’s former Labour MP Claire Ward. This afforded Mr Harrington the space to appear above the partisan fray and burnish his appeal to floating voters. As the incumbent himself this time round, the MP may find himself on the sharp end of the Liberal Democrats well-honed local campaign attack machine.
To add to this is the fact that if Mayor Thornhill does make a bid for Parliament, it will not be to act as a political makeweight for another party. Standing in 2015 would be a considerable gamble for the mayor. If she wins a fourth term as mayor in May, but then fails in a bid to be MP, she will be sitting out three years in the town hall with residents knowing she was a wantaway mayor. Not an appealing prospect, and even more incentive for her to make it to the green benches of Westminster.
If she does step into the ring next year it will be as a candidate with a formidable electoral record playing to win.
Another drawback of this scenario for Mr Harrington is it will dilute his otherwise unique selling point as an incumbent. After five years representing the town in Parliament, he will be able to point to Government funding for the Croxley Rail Link as the centrepiece of his achievements.
But if mayor Thornhill enters the race she will also be able to lay claim to credit for the rail extension and will also have an even larger portfolio of local accomplishments to parade before voters. Yes, after 10 years in power Mayor Thornhill also has considerable political baggage. But Mr Harrington won’t want to rough up a candidate he is counting on to do reasonably well.
One presumes Mr Harrington will be highlighting the positive working relationship between himself and the mayor and asking voters to keep that partnership intact by returning him to Westminster.
This strategy was hinted at when at a recent public meeting Mr Harrington compared his working relationship with Mayor Thornhill to that of David Cameron and Boris Johnson.
It was a slightly unusual comparison considering the widely-reported tensions between the Prime Minster and the Mayor of London due to the latter’s ambitions to be the next resident of 10 Downing Street.
However, if the Mayor Thornhill does decide to go for Mr Harrington’s job next year, the comparison could become more apt than initially intended.
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