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London will have a new mayor now that Boris Johnson has become MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Several candidates have put their names forward from Zac Goldsmith and Sol Campbell to Sadiq Khan and Tessa Jowell among others.
There’s been much interest in trying to persuade New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to cross the pond and throw his hat in the ring. Bloomberg won three terms and a popular campaigner. He counts London as his “second home” and David Cameron’s senior advisor Steve Hilton has called a Bloomberg candidacy “an incredible coup for London”.
Bloomberg has said he will not run for London Mayor. Howard Wolfson, his former Deputy Mayor, said Bloomberg loves New York too much to leave. But could he change his mind and make a surprise announcement?
All candidates must be a citizen of the UK or EU. Bloomberg is currently ineligible as an American, but some have claimed that his citizenship could be fast-tracked because of his significant investment in UK business.
Bloomberg’s problem is that it’s all but impossible for him to receive British citizenship in time to stand for London Mayor.
The first reason is he fails the residency test. Bloomberg’s considerable investments in this country aren’t enough. Americans like him must normally be resident in the UK for five years. An investment of £10 million or more opens the quickest path to applying for settlement, but would still require residency for two years.
Marriage to a British citizen can reduce this period and Bloomberg was married to a UK citizen. But the residency requirement would only be reduced to three years and you must be married at the time of the application. Bloomberg divorced his British wife over 20 years ago.
If residency were not a problem, Bloomberg would face at least two further hurdles. One is he’d have to study and pass the Life in the UK citizenship test. I’ve described this as ‘like a bad pub quiz’ containing obscure facts few British citizens know and might prove especially challenging for an outsider. It can take several months to book a test and it’s required for permanent residency.
A second hurdle is that citizenship applications must normally wait one year after receiving permanent residency before applying for citizenship—and the outcome normally takes about six months after applying.
Bloomberg’s failure to meet the residency requirement on any grounds, his needing to pass the citizenship test and the 18 month or more wait after a likely two or more year qualifying period are three reasons why Londoners should firmly rule out what would be an extraordinary political story. He can’t run even if he changed his mind. But it could happen in the following election so watch this space.
NB – Please note that Professor Brooks is also a member of the Labour Party.
Professor Thom Brooks, Professor of Law and Government, in Durham Law School, Durham University, is available for comment on Monday, June 22, and Tuesday, June 23, 2015, on: +44 (0) 191 334 4365 (office) or firstname.lastname@example.org
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The ‘Life in the United Kingdom’ Citizenship Test: Is It Unfit for Purpose?, by Thom Brooks, report published June 2013 – with briefing paper and launch video.
An earlier paper, The British Citizenship Test: The Case for Reform, by Thom Brooks, was published before the current test was launched, in The Political Quarterly in August 2012.
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