London Mayor Boris Johnson is inviting New Yorkers to Blighty. Photographer: Getty Images

New Yorkers, Boris Will Save You!

Mark Gilbert is a Bloomberg View columnist and writes editorials on economics, finance and politics. He was London bureau chief for Bloomberg News and is the author of “Complicit: How Greed and Collusion Made the Credit Crisis Unstoppable.”
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Boris Johnson, London's the eminently quotable mayor, is reaching out to New Yorkers who might fancy a change of scenery if New York Mayor Bill de Blasio should decide to raise taxes.

"We are watching New York with great attention,'' Boris -- his rock-star status in the U.K. means he is known universally by just the one name, in the manner of Prince, Madonna or Sting -- said in an interview published by Total Politics magazine this week. "And we will see what Mr. de Blasio actually does, by way of taxation reforms and other measures and see what impact that has on New York's effectiveness."

Given Boris's flair for theater and hifalutin language, it's a surprise he didn't add:

"Give me your tax-tired, your rich,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wealthy refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the condominiumed, Blasio-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside London's door!"

This isn't the first time that Boris has tried to seduce the citizens of a competing nation. In October, with French President Francois Hollande seeking higher taxes on the rich to plug his budget deficit, the London Mayor invoked the French Revolution in an effort to boost professional immigration.

"Not since 1789 has there been such tyranny in France," he told members of the ruling Conservative party at their 2012 annual conference. "I am very keen to welcome talented French people to London."

Boris had some success with the French, who have flocked to London in their tens of thousands. New York may be a struggle, though. De Blasio had proposed to raise taxes on income above $500,000 a year to 4.4 percent from almost 3.9 percent to fund expanded pre-kindergarden and after-school programs. For the 27,300 taxpayers earning $500,000 to $1 million, the average increase would have been $973 a year, according to the Independent Budget Office, a municipal agency. Even if the legislature hadn't blocked that tax increase, it wouldn't have been enough to drive wealthy New Yorkers to the U.K., where the top rate of income tax is 45 percent, compared with 39.6 percent in the U.S.

The world may be hearing a lot more from and about the London mayor in coming years. He continues to dodge questions about whether he has ambitions to become Prime Minister, for which he would first need to take a seat in parliament.

"It's what we call an adynaton, something that is most unlikely to happen," Boris told Total Politics. "Water more likely to flow up hill, hell freezing over, that sort of thing."

As eloquent as Boris is -- I certainly had to reach for a dictionary to check whether adynaton is a real word -- methinks the Mayor doth protest too much.

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Mark Gilbert at

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