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Leadership politics in the United Kingdom's local government

Leadership in London : from government to governance

Timothy Whitton
p. 101-115


The leadership of London became a priority in the 1990s and was one of New Labour’s commitments in the build-up to the 1997 General Elections. To succeed, high level political involvement was vital and although New Labour’s leadership threw its entire weight behind the project, little heed was paid to the possible outcome of the first mayoral elections.

Indeed, against all the odds, London’s Ken Livingstone became the first directly elected mayor, won again in 2004 but lost to the Conservative candidate Boris Johnson in 2008 and again in 2012. He had nevertheless created a style of leadership based on his particular brand of celebrity that his successor fully embraced, but in his own fashion.

Whereas Livingstone wore out his welcome, Johnson used the mayoralty more unashamedly as a springboard for self-promotion. His two mandates came to a logical close in 2016 when he was replaced by Sadiq Khan whose expertise in communication has cut London politics adrift from the world of celebrity while engaging more rigorously in the process of replacing local government by local governance.

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Extrait du texte

Ce document sera publié en ligne en texte intégral en septembre 2018.


Early days
New Labour’s Livingstone
Second mandate leadership and third elections
Over to Boris
From Boris to Sadiq

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In 1991, the Conservatives very timidly broached the idea of creating strong local leadership via their Secretary of State for the environment, Michael Heseltine, but this was met with opposition both from local politicians and MPs, too wary of their style being cramped by the competition they feared this political move might create. The recent abolition of the Greater London Council had left the Conservatives with the bitter taste of humiliation due to the antics of Ken Livingstone and his cronies and there was no inclination from the head of the party whatsoever to hand any power back to what they feared would be left-leaning local authorities.

New Labour began toying with the idea of creating a new central authority in London after its fourth consecutive electoral defeat in 1992, but the real impetus came from Tony Blair who undoubtedly saw the potential of creating powerful local government - and especially mayors – according to the image that he believed government ...

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Référence papier

Timothy Whitton, « Leadership in London : from government to governance », Observatoire de la société britannique, 20 | 2018, 101-115.

Référence électronique

Timothy Whitton, « Leadership in London : from government to governance », Observatoire de la société britannique [En ligne], 20 | 2018, mis en ligne le 01 septembre 2018, consulté le 18 août 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/osb.1998

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Timothy Whitton

Professeur de civilisation britannique à l'Université de Clermont-Ferrand

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Observatoire de la société britannique

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