Buffoon Boris to New York mayor: Help!

Michael Bloomberg flies in to offer advice as the 'serious' Johnson seeks to win London
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Indy Politics

He has managed to convince the Conservative Party to support his roller-coaster campaign to be London Mayor, but now Boris Johnson has to persuade the rest of Europe's biggest city to follow suit.

The scarecrow-haired chat-show veteran will today address the Tories at the start of the long march to what he hopes will be victory in the London mayoral election next May, with a pledge to get serious.

And he will use as his inspiration one of the world's most successful local politicians, who just happens to be following him on to the party conference platform in Blackpool.

Michael Bloomberg, who has attracted praise for his record in his six years as New York Mayor, will close the first day of the conference with a message of support at the start of David Cameron's most crucial week as Tory leader.

But Mr Johnson, routinely portrayed as a buffoon by his Labour opponents, has been shrewd enough to recognise the inspiration he can take from a man who has cut crime by 20 per cent and transformed New York into "the safest big city in America".

Campaign insiders last night confirmed that Johnson advisers had already visited Mr Bloomberg's team and noted the effectiveness of his management operation and their success in such areas as crime, education and job creation.

The Tory candidate, who has already railed against London's "bendy buses", is planning to make crime reduction a focus of his campaign to unseat Ken Livingstone as London Mayor.

"This is why Boris has harped on about having his bike stolen seven times," one campaign insider said. "It might not seem important to some people, but it shows that he has had personal experience of the crime that affects so many Londoners – and Livingstone can't say that."

Mr Johnson is also expected to copy a more controversial Bloomberg strategy, by assembling a Gordon Brown-style "government of all the talents" to drive through his reforms if he wins the election.

"We have met some of the team working for Bloomberg," a Johnson adviser added. "It is clear that the mayoralty Boris will create will be very much like Michael Bloomberg's, where he has employed people who are the best at their jobs, whether they are Democrats or Republicans."

Mr Johnson has already begun the process of trying out his ideas on the streets of London. His campaign spokesman said last night: "The hard work is already under way. He has visited every single London borough to find out what the voters really want. Now he will get very serious."

This may cause a problem for the candidate, famed for his bumbling demeanour. But Johnson backer Merrick Cockell,Tory chairman of London Councils, said he would not be totally serious. "Boris's character will always come through," Mr Cockell insisted. "But he won't be basing his campaign on calling Livingstone names."

The new Boris may be tested as soon as tomorrow, when he will have to handle Mayor Bloomberg's visit to Mr Livingstone, where he will investigate the possibility of transporting London's congestion charging policy and bus services to New York.

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