After a long and bruising London mayoral campaign, what is the last thing that anyone on either side should want to think about?
Hint – the operative word here is ‘should’. But after all the vitriol, the debates and the wilful sacrifice of thousands of activists on both sides to the grip of the perma-cold – the sniffling hallmark of day after day knocking doors in the rain – thoughts are turning to the next cycle.
Difficult as it maybe to believe but already senior figures on both sides are beginning to wonder who will be the mayoral contenders in 2016.
Come what may, next time round, Ken and Boris will not be involved and potential wannabes will be manoeuvring for prominent London roles in the 2015 general election.
Within Labour there is a working assumption that David Lammy will move early to establish front-runner status. Having seriously considered throwing his hat into the ring this time, he eventually opted to chair Ken’s campaign and inherit the campaign organisation.
His political calculation is that in 2016, most of the 2010 intake of London Labour MPs will be either in government or battling over the future direction of the Labour party. Allying with Ken minimised his risk of losing the selection this time and maximised his pool of support within the party machine for 2016.
One former party aide, who worked on the London mayoral candidate selection process and advised Lammy to run was phlegmatic, “He would have killed Boris if he had been the candidate but the politics made sense to wait”.
On the Tory side, eyes are also looking beyond Boris’s widely anticipated return to the Commons to plague Cameron and Osborne at Westminster in 2016.
Their assumption is that a Lammy Labour candidacy is increasingly likely and they will need to react. As one Tory official commented to Uncut, “It will make it much more difficult to run another posh white man”.
This complicates their nascent plans as the leading candidate on paper is currently Zac Goldsmith.
The independently minded MP for Richmond is deeply disliked by David Cameron’s team – to the point where they point blank refused to send the Tory leader to campaign for Goldsmith during the general election.
Cameron only ended up visiting the marginal constituency by mistake – he went to Kingston hospital thinking it was in the neighbouring constituency.
With ministerial advancement blocked but a personal high profile and A-list celebrity connections, Goldsmith has the time and opportunity to become a formidable candidate. But up against David Lammy, a working class lad from Tottenham made good?
Paradoxically, Goldsmith might be viable if Labour win in 2015, but if it is another 5 years of Cameron and Osborne, then Goldsmith could be an Etonian too far.
In response to these doubts, a new name is being touted in Tory circles – Louise Mensch.
She has the profile, is clearly independent and by all accounts, faces similar problems to Goldsmith in terms of ministerial advancement.
The argument goes that by the time the next selection comes round she will be sufficiently bored of her backbench life and open to the challenge.
2016 might be a long way off, and there will be many rumours and plots before candidates are selected, but make no mistake, the discussions are already under way.