Boris Johnson's UK tour
Rafael Behr over at the New Statesman has an interesting blog today in which he speculates that the Mayor of London will use his post-Olympics time travelling the world to 'sell' London. The motivations for this, Behr argues, are two-fold; one, it might add to the seriousness that Boris needs to cultivate if he is ever to be Leader of the Conservative Party and two, it offers the opportunity to be seen attracting inward investment in a period of unquestionable economic strife.
I think it is inevitable that Boris will spend much of his second terms looking to bolster his reputation while seeking to avoid the accusation that he's ignoring London because his eye is on another prize. But I think he can serve himself, and London, far better by avoiding the foreign junkets.
Instead, Boris should make it his final mission as Mayor to sell London to the rest of the UK. By doing this he can kill two birds with one stone - potentially propelling both himself and his city to new heights. Let's deal with what London would get out of Boris' grand tour of home-turf first. As Ben Rogers, the Director of the Centre for London, has pointed out - the rest of Britain's attitude to London matters. The executive powers of the Mayor are severly limited and most of the laws that govern this city are made by men and women elected by non-Londoners. On a whole host of issues, from immigration to banking, the needs and demands of London are widely seen to be out of step with those of the rest of the UK.
Resentment may, ironically, get worse rather than better as the Olympics confirm to many that London gets all the good stuff while the rest of the country is left to rot. We are the place where royals marry, Queens are jubilee-ified and international parties are thrown for sporting heroes. That resentment must be dealt with if we are to encourage the rest of the electorate to carry on backing London's prosperity - which, of course, serves them too - and who better to go out and make the case than our celebrity Mayor?
For Boris, the potential gains are more dreary than the perks of jetting to exotic locales but nonetheless more vital. As Tim Montgommerie asked on Twitter today, what is the Boris effect once you leave London? Is he as adored, as feted and as humoured? The truth is we don't really know. But what is clear is that if he intends to vault himself to the Leadership of the Party, getting back into Parliament will be the easy bit. Convincing his colleagues to invest power in him will be a much tougher sell.
So the boring, tedious work of sucking up to potential Parliamentary allies must be undertaken. This will be difficult if Boris divides his time between City Hall and the world's shiny capitals. With a tour of Great Britain, Boris can put in the handshakes, the meet and greets, the sucking up and the constituency fundraisers - buying himself some much lacking loyalty from future colleagues - whilst selling London to the UK and demonstrably doing his day job.
If Boris wants to both protect London's future and engineer his own he could do a lot worse than jaunt around these fair isles.