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Boris Johnson Formally Launches Re-Election Campaign In Richmond

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BORIS JOHNSON LAUNCH ELECTION
Boris Picked A Church In Richmond To Formally Launch His Campaign | PA

Boris Johnson formally launched his re-election campaign for London Mayor on Tuesday morning, taking over a church in the leafy London borough of Richmond to rally the party faithful.

HuffPost recharged its Oyster card and headed out to the suburb, a journey interrupted by a District line train being "reassigned" to Kensington Olympia. Then its replacement train was mysteriously held at a red signal outside Barons Court for ages, so we arrived a bit late.

The unashamedly middle class location for the launch event attracted a largely white and middle class audience. And the religous setting formed the backdrop to some intensive preaching to the choir.

Tory London Assembly member Tony Arbour, introducing Boris, acknowledged that we were in "outer London, in Boris-land," and that the area had the lowest levels of crime in the capital. As such, activists were told to "have no fear going out leafleting for Boris," to much laughter and applause.

Further introductions were provided by local Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, who claimed Boris was "a unifying mayor" who had "transcended party politics," before a standing ovation broke out among assembled Tories as Boris took to the stage.

Immediately the party politics which Boris has allegedly transcended were wheeled out.

Boris - ahead in the polls by between four and six points, according to the latest projections - attacked his main rival Ken Livingstone as a "champagne-swilling Trotskyist bendy-bus aficionado," lambasting the former Labour mayor's record for alleged waste and trips to Cuba.

By contrast, claimed Boris, Londoners should be delighted with the past four years, where his promises had been kept, crime had fallen and the Mayor had caused "plaster to fall off the ceiling of the Treasury," thanks to his bruising encounters with George Osborne and Whitehall mandarins who'd wanted to cut Crossrail.

Boris used the speech to announce two new initiatives; young people would continue to get free travel around the city, but they would have a new clause written into their conditions of carriage compelling them to give up their seats for pregnant women and the elderly.

"Everybody is paying for the privilege of young people travelling free... But it's vital that they show some courtesy," he said to applause, although it seems like gesture politics, with no obvious enforcement if those lucky young people fail to be chivalrous.

The second initiative would see special constables in London getting 50% relief on their council tax. This, at least, was an actual policy, sandwiched in between great swathes of self-congratulation and momentous accomplishments.

Bendy buses no longer sitting "like beached whales, jack-knifed in yellow box junctions," 1,000 extra police officers on the streets (hotly disputed by Labour), eyesore tower blocks vetoed by the Mayor's office.

Yes, the "greatest city in the world" had become some kind of utopia since 2008, and a vote for Ken Livingstone would send the city into reverse. Fares would eventually go up under Ken apparently (despite going down to begin with). Under Boris? "We would be very determined to hold them down."

In the continuing pursuit of a perfect city state, trains in Borisland would one day drive themselves, despite protests from "hard-line union barons who mistakenly choose to resist this idea", nasty profiteering train companies would have to start working with the Mayor, to get Oyster cards in the suburban railways, and there would be no third runway at Heathrow - Boris suggested he would resign if he was overruled by the coalition on this.

"You will get a mayor who'll bring Londoners together, not one who plays one group off against another, because of some cynical calculation," Boris concluded.

But was it a "cynical calculation" to launch his campaign in one of the most Tory districts of London, where the wheels of descending 747s practically scrape the rooftops? Draw your own conclusions.

And it might also be considered somewhat cynical of Boris to take questions from practically everyone in the church who were somehow ethnically diverse - HuffPost counted around a dozen of these non-white faces in a gathering of about 250 people.

But this was a commanding, assured and - we must admit - entertaining hour in the company of Boris Johnson. The rather unanswered question, though, is whether the less green and affluent parts of this city will support him on May the 3rd as much as the good folk of Richmond clearly will.

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