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Graham Watts From Mr Nobody to Mr Ordinary


Politics get weirder by the day. If elected Mayor of London, Jeffrey Archer will be appointing a Commissioner of Dirt. If I'd read it in Private Eye I might have laughed, but I heard it from the noble Lord himself, during a show-stopping speech at the Conservative Party Conference. It didn't take much to stop the show. The television cameras seemed to catch one 'pearls and twin-set' delegate taking the chance for a catnap during Jeffrey's speech.

Lord Archer called on a large entourage of young bods to stand up and take a bow. There was a head of this and a head of that and I particularly recall a head of ethnic minorities among all the other heads.

More than a year ago, in these pages, I suggested that Nick Raynsford would make an excellent Mayor and I was pleased to hear him announce his candidature at the Labour Party Conference. Unfortunately my one-and-only 'scoop' was short-lived since ten days later he withdrew to act as Frank Dobson's campaign manager.

At the present count, Frank and Nick have at least three other colleagues to take on before they can get to grips with Jeffrey and his many heads, but I wish them well.

If the voters value intellect, integrity and a capacity to get on with the job with minimal staff, then Nick should have been in with a fighting chance. I don't have quite the same regard for Dobson, but the two of them together ought to make a compelling team.

Lord Archer echoed the 'Mr Nobody' jibes which had greeted Raynsford's candidature for Mayor with 'I'm surprised that so many people have heard of him'. It appeared to be a common theme. If Raynsford was portrayed as 'Mr Nobody' then I expect that Dobson will be seen as 'Mr Ordinary'.

The perceived anonymity has been a problem for Nick and I suspect that being ordinary might be a problem for Frank. But the way in which we view our politicians troubles me.

Lord Archer and Ken Livingstone are popular because (a) they have had nothing better to do for the last two years than campaign to be the next Dick Whittington and (b) they are controversial figures. Popularity and notoriety often go together but I won't be casting my vote for Mayor on the basis of either a good read or a good laugh.

Both Dobson and Raynsford have had their hands full with important work for the past two and a half years. Raynsford has handled his London ministerial duties with tact and common sense.

Carrying construction and London in his red boxes must have made Raynsford one of the most overworked of all ministers and he's the 'Mr Nobody'?

I don't take Dobson to be a pushy politician. This was certainly true when he shadowed John Gummer at Environment during the latter years of Opposition. Politicians are usually big on hierachy but in construction matters Dobson always seemed happy to defer to his junior spokesman - who just happened to be Raynsford.

At Health, Dobson has handled one of the most difficult Cabinet posts. It has been a poisoned chalice for many before him, but after two and a half years Frank is still relatively unscathed. He appears to adopt a low profile, quiet and co-operative approach which I'm sure has had much to do with his success. It also keeps him out of the newspapers rather more than either those with problems or others who like to 'spin' their modest successes.

Raynsford is hardly 'Mr Nobody' but Dobson is probably 'Mr Ordinary'. When compared to some of the other higher profile Mayoral hopefuls, perhaps there are some aspects of 'Mr Ordinary' which would suit London's Mayor very well.

Raynsford has sacrificed his mayoral ambitions to offer Dobson support.

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