After two and a half years as Conservative Group Leader, I have decided not to seek election to the post this year. This has not been an easy decision, but several factors have weighed heavily in my choice:
First, I want to devote more time to my constituency. The Leader's role is exciting and rewarding but it does entail a lot of meetings and desk work. I prefer to get out and meet people and I will be doing a lot of that in the coming year.
Second, I want to involve myself in more non political campaigns. City Hall is a pretty relaxed place when it comes to party whips - particularly compared to Westminster - nevertheless if I promote issues whilst I am still Group Leader, they are bound to be viewed as Conservative party policy, at least to some extent. I have been speaking fairly freely recently and want to do more of it.
Third, I believe that this is a good time to make a change, as we enter the final year of the Mayoralty. The atmosphere is likely to be more combative in coming months and the Group need someone who will take the fight to the opposition and lead the election campaign.
Leading the Conservative Group is a real privilege. Not only is it the largest group ever elected to City Hall - with eleven members - I also believe that it is the most able and experienced group ever elected. I have enjoyed great support from my officer team: My Deputy James Cleverly, whose 'can do' attitude is really refreshing and valuable in politics. My Whip Richard Tracey, who has given me fantastic advice during some tense and tricky negotiations. My office manager Robert Rams, who effortlessy runs a big and complex department, producing vital briefings and supporting some demanding members.
Finally, I would like to place on record my gratitude to all our professional researchers and caseworkers who carry much of our daily load.
And I have enjoyed working with Boris - a unique and positive experience from which I have personally learned a great deal.
The new team of officers will be elected by the Group on 29th March. I wish them well and undertake to give them my full support in the run up to the 2012 election and through Boris' second term.