Londonders, and the whole of England awoke this morning to the news Boris Johnson had been elected Mayor of the capital.
Depending on who you read, the floppy haired one will either offend every ethnic minority in the City within a month, encourage racism, destroy the environment, break public transport, and take the whole city down the swanny all because people elected him for a laugh. Or, on the other side, he’ll be a breath of fresh air to the courrupt, nepotistic anti-semtic Ken, who has broken our public transport system, lost control of crime, gives jobs to cronies and has became far too comfortable and power-hungry in the top job.
The reality is probably nowehere near either.
The best analysis today comes from Nosemonkey at EUtopia, and the subsequent comment from Doctor Vee. I could quote the whole piece, as it sums up exactly how I feel, but here’s just a taster:
“Boris Johnson is not some monster – by painting him as such when he blatantly is not is going to rub off badly on you, not him. Just as it rubbed off on Labour badly when they tried the same trick with Ken back in 2000. (That certainly helped push me towards voting for the guy…)
If the left/Labour can’t get over the snide remarks, personal attacks and class prejudice that seems to imbue every aspect of their relationship with the Conservative Party – and, ideally, come up with some practical left-wing policies rather than populist and ill-considered appeals to the middle-classes and big business – they are going to continue to slide in the polls to the point of embarrassing defeat.”
Despite his penchant for ill-timed comments and the buffoon persona, Boris Johnson is probably a lot more capable and intelligent than people give him credit for. Had I been living in London for last the election, I probably wouldn’t have voted for Ken but that doesn’t mean even he critics can’t acknowledge he make an averagely decent fist of running the capital, probably more so than other politicians. Johnson noted this last night, and there’s no reason to suppose he won’t do similar. After all, Ken was subjected to similar abuse when he first ran for Mayor.
From numerous conversations over the past week, the split between Ken and Boris seemed roughly along the lines of the vote last night and not once did somebody say they were voting for him as a laugh. To portray it as such belittles those who voted for either candidate.
Boris should be judged on how he performs on the job, not on his previous buffoonary or comments, many of which were taken out of context or, in the case of the Liverpool one, not even written by him. On that, Ken should be judged as doing a reasonable job. What I’m sure of is Boris Johnson is not London’s answer to George Bush but does have a lot of expectations upon his shoulders. I seriously doubt London will either change massively or go completely to pot, but neither do I expect him to be the political Messiah so many of his fervent supporters believe him to be.
As for the attacks from the left, some of which come from usually surprisingly sane sources, it does the party no favours, and reminds me exactly why I find politics these days so depressing. Invoking Thatcher is stupid as many of today’s voters have no real concept of life under her, and anyway the parties have moved on. If anything, Cameron is more of a heir to Blair than the Tory bogeyman. Portraying the Tories as some evil-eyed monster who’ll take the country to the dogs ignores the fact Labour have done exactly the same over the past eleven years.
I have no reason to suppose Cameron will be any improvement on the current lot and, if anything, he could be worse if Labour continue down their road of self destruction and hand the Consevatives a huge landslide come the next election. That would be possibly the worst thing that could happen to British politics – we saw what happened when Blair had two terms virtually unchecked.
While it’s nice to see Labour get a good kicking, and frankly they completely deserve it on current form, and the last round of elections have been interesting if not exactly inspiring, it leaves the landscape looking bleak. If Labour do battle back against the odds, it’ll be somewhat depressing. If the Tories get a landslide, it’ll be somewhat depressing. None of the other parties, least of all the Lib Dems, looks like making any headway.
If I’m gloomy today, it’s not because of who has been elected, but because of the signs for the future.
UD: Another good piece, this time Doctor Vee expanding on his thoughts from the comments on Nosemonkey’s blog. After weeks of just seeing Ken/Boris hysteria and yah-boo infantile politics, it’s been really refreshing to read two thoughtful, sensible analyses of Thursday.
UD2: Ian at the Devil’s Kitchen also notes the number of commentators who called a victory for Boris a sad day for democracy, thus completely misunderstanding the idea of how democracy works. Democracy isn’t a sham if your chosen candidate doesn’t get in, it just means the majority of those who voted didn’t want your candidate. Rather than crying and throwing your toys out of the the pram like a big baby, and hurling abuse at the victor, wouldn’t it be more constructive to put the same energy into analysing why your candidate was beaten and work towards it not happening again? As Rumbold at Pickled Politics says, a lot of commentators culd learn from Ken Livinstone’s dignified exit speech (as could those who opposed him).
Gawd, I’m probably nearer to the personal politics of some of these people, but their reactions are precisely why I hate associating myself with any kind of political movement.