Have you ever heard of Susan Hall? Until a month ago, I hadn’t. Now that she has been selected as the Conservative candidate for next year’s London mayoral election, her name might well stick – although I am going to write it down somewhere just in case.
This isn’t to disparage her abilities. Hall has, apparently, been leader of the Conservative party group in the London Assembly for the past four years – I don’t live in London, which may explain my ignorance. Before being elected a councillor in Harrow she was a mechanic in the family garage business and has also worked as a hairdresser – so she ought to have a connection with ordinary people which is lacking in so many of today’s MPs, many of whom have never had a job outside politics. For all I know she might have what it takes to make an excellent mayor.
Yet her selection seems to break an unwritten rule of the London mayoralty election: that parties will pick, if not political celebrities, then someone who comes to the campaign with a high level of national recognition, or who at least seems a little larger than life. Since the first election in 2000 the Conservatives have selected Jeffery Archer (though he never got around to contesting the actual election), Steven Norris, Boris Johnson, Zac Goldsmith and Shaun Bailey.
Norris had been a cabinet minister, Johnson was already well-known, Goldsmith was a high-profile London MP, Shaun Bailey had not got further than being a parliamentary candidate but was well-known through his journalism.
It is a puzzle why no high-profile Conservatives with national recognition seemed to have been interested in the job this time around, not least because of the open goal which Sadiq Khan has granted the party as a result of his determination to press ahead with expansion of his Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (Ulez). It