Waiting for Boris

by Harry on May 2, 2008

It’s beginning to look as if the voters of London have taken it upon themselves to abolish the post of Mayor land themselves with Boris Johnson. A remarkable move: reject a manifestly competent (if not especially likeable) incumbent, and a manifestly decent challenger (who, in addition to being gay, is related to Hugh Paddick!), for… well, Boris Johnson. (See Martin O’ Neill for invective — I’m too bemused and detached myself). If this comes to pass, I would say that it should be the one positive note of the day for Gordon Brown. Ken Livingstone’s mayoralty was too independent from Labour for them to get any credit for anything he did well; whereas David Cameron has tied his flag to Boris’s mast. The post of Mayor has far too little power really to do London a lot of good, but it has enough to do it a lot of harm, and there’s every chance that a Johnson mayoralty will oblige, and the Tories will suffer. If this comes to pass, Cameron, not Brown, should be disappointed.



fjm 05.02.08 at 8:43 pm

Half the voters of London. Maybe slightly more than half. But the rest of us are going to be deeply pissed off, particularly by the inane comments of certain people of “oh, well, it was time for a change”.


stuart 05.02.08 at 8:50 pm

If being best known for acting like a fool on ‘Have I got new for you’ is now a route to political power, then the odds on Brian Blessed being the next Prime Minister must have shortened dramatically tonight.


Naadir Jeewa 05.02.08 at 9:00 pm

This really upsets me. By and large, with the exception of the new radical-Libertarians, ALL of the under thirties I know were vehemently pro-Ken and anti-Boris. We feel let down by those who thought it “fun” to let Boris “have a go” at being mayor. As if fighting inequality, as Ken has tried valiantly to do over his reign, is a spectacle to be amused then to seriously take part in.

What with the loss of Charles Tilly, it’s been a sad week.

I’ll go off and remain tipsy and nostalgic now…


Nathaniel 05.02.08 at 9:32 pm

Somehow I was under the (sad) impression that Brian Blessed was dead. So I went to look him up on Wikipedia, so I could be a little pedant, and am happy to find him alive.


Alan 05.02.08 at 10:51 pm

1) Brian Blessed was incredible. By which I mean absolutely unbelievable.
2) I shall move out of London tomorrow…


Jo Wolff 05.02.08 at 11:24 pm

Nathaniel, I did the same thing (look Brian Blessed up on Wikipedia to check he wasn’t dead) while watching the programme. So who is it that reminds us of Brian Blessed that has died?

On the BBC website they give the mayoral voting patterns by area. It looks like those of us in Inner London should declare independence from the Outer London ring of Boris lovers.


Alan 05.02.08 at 11:52 pm

One thing, this should bring the property prices down sharpish.


seth edenbaum 05.03.08 at 12:02 am

“Boris? Jesus christ, what the hell happened to common sense. Why, I mean, why? He is such a prat. This is really the person that Londoners want to run their city? Thank god I don’t live there is all I can say.”

My 16 year old niece…
somewhere in the Midlands.


Laleh 05.03.08 at 1:25 am

It is the most depressing thing on earth to have a complete clown who has actually used the word “picaninny” in the last few years as the mayor of one of the most consmopolitan cities in the whole world.

The only thing that one can possibly potentially be optimistic about is that Boris will fall so hard on his face (what with the Olympics and everything happening during his tenure) that all the warm glow around Cameron will vanish (but them who on the other side of the aisle is actually there to vote for? New Labour? Yech).

His first move of course is going to be to forgive the American Embassy the millions it owes the City of London in overdue congestion charges. The next move will also have to do with congestion charges, possibly revoking them… which means that those of us who depend on public transport to go to our jobs in central London are fucked two ways: our roads will be clogged, and the funding for the buses will have disappeared.

I guess I will have to get the bike out of the cellar and put my life in the hands of angry taxi and white-van drivers…


christian h. 05.03.08 at 1:30 am

Well, I guess Ken shouldn’t have taken up with his new pals in New Labour. He was endorsed by the City, for fucks sake (no offense, Daniel). He even urged people to cross Tube picket lines, iirc.

Moving right never works. It has ruined the SPD in Germany, the Democrats are a joke, Labour is self-destructing, and I shouldn’t mention the center-left in Italy, just out of decency.

Sadly, I doubt liberals will learn their lesson.


P O'Neill 05.03.08 at 1:33 am

In my one conversation with actual Boris voters (and thus explaining 2 out of his 1m votes), it came down to resentment not at the congestion charge per se but the cumulative effect of the charge, the increase in the rate, the proposed “gas guzzler” add-on, and the administrative apparatus enforcing the CC regime. If you take out the car-owning class, I’m not sure who else was voting for Boris. But his War on Bendy Buses seems to have had some impact.


USpace 05.03.08 at 2:03 am

Bloody good news! Praise the Lord! Thank God! There is hope for Londonistan. What will Red Ken do next?


absurd thought –
God of the Universe says
elect a communist

someone who will work full-time
to destroy your country




engels 05.03.08 at 2:12 am

fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck


christian h. 05.03.08 at 2:29 am

Well, engels, I’m glad I’m not the only one using the dreaded f-word in this thread. As bad is that the BNP got a seat on the GLA.


harry b 05.03.08 at 2:50 am

I think this is awful. But those of you who actually have to live with it should note that BJ is genuinely incompetent (as well as racist, vicious, etc). There’s a good side to this — the GLA might take on more importance, when facing a Mayor incapable of running rings round it.
Still, sorry.


Bob B 05.03.08 at 3:25 am

Don’t blame me for the election result or anything that follows – and I didn’t vote for Ken in 2004 either.

However, I can recommend this blog piece in the Guardian with lots of quotes from the Telegraph:

“The Telegraph columnist’s article attacking Boris Johnson is a reminder of the old adage that, in politics, your opponents are on the other side; your enemies are sitting next to you.”

Perhaps a factor in the result is that the BBC has been recently reporting that 40 per cent of present London residents were born abroad. As for me, I was born and raised in inner London ages ago. Cue for this:


Bob B 05.03.08 at 3:34 am

Why and how London is very different from the rest of Britain.

This is the BBC’s video on London – The Great Divide:


Tom 05.03.08 at 5:32 am

Was out on the beers last night – only one of the gang admitted voting for Johnson (‘Ken is an alcoholic with his head up his arse’ was roughly his reasoning). The rest dissolved into hysterical giggles at the thought of Mayor Boris. Even my oil industry mate voted Sian/Ken, which begs the question ‘who does Boris represent anyway?’.

Coming home at 5:50 and catching an early morning bus, slapping my Oyster on it and being home by 6:20 I thought to myself ‘yes, Ken really has presided over an appalling transport system’.

So long, and thanks for all the buses. Total pisser about the BNP, but at least it’s relatively harmless.


Eamonn Fitzgerald 05.03.08 at 7:26 am

Ken was a friend of Castro and Chavez and that was cool here. Then he welcomed Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim cleric who praises suicide attacks in Israel, but that was not cool with all Londoners. Wonder if Ken will be flying to Havana or Karachi today? Doubt it, though. Like most left-wing frauds he’ll be slumming it in Islington.


Bob B 05.03.08 at 9:00 am

Whatever else, on the strength of what is in that BBC video clip (link @16), it is more than just difficult to blame Ken (or the many migrant settlers in London) for either damaging London’s economy or for frightening off investors and tourists.

On Eurostat figures, inner London is the most affluent subregion (or ‘NUT’) in the EU, with a margin to spare, in terms of per capita GDP at PPP exchange rates. The challenging question for New Labour is how is it that after 11 years of NL governance inner London also includes four of the poorest districts in Britain among all that affluence?

Of course, there is one credible answer: maintaining the poor districts boosted the Labour vote in London.

Btw in London’s long and illustrious history, since it was founded by the Romans almost two thousand years ago, the city has had several unusual characters as mayors.

Among them was Richard Whittington with his fabled cat:

Another was John Wilkes, an admitted libertine and atheist, who made signal contributions to establishing freedom of the press and in demonstrating that even government ministers are subject to the law:

A fascinating insight is that Wilkes’s popularity waned after he, as Lord Mayor of London, called out the troops to quell the Gordon riots of 1780. The riots, which effectively amounted to an anti-Catholic pogrom, led to loss of life and widespread looting and destruction of property, including Newgate Prison, which was burned down.

Anti-Catholicism has been a far more significant running theme through English history since Henry VIII than anti-semitism ever was. Disraeli, one of our more illustrious past prime ministers, was the grandson of immigrants to Britain. In one of his novels (1846), he put in the line: “London is the modern Babylon,” which is still resounds.

In 1848, hounded out of mainland Europe, Karl Marx and family as asylum seekers settled in London. Visitors might like to go to Dean Street in Soho and look up at the blue plaque on the front of the Quo Vadis restaurant which marks one of the places where the Marx family lived. There is a curious irony that the arch exponent of the inevitable collapse of capitalism should seek asylum in the capital city of the capitalist superpower of his time.


Katherine 05.03.08 at 9:19 am

I voted Labour for the first time in my entire life so that tit Johnson wouldn’t win. How could this happen? How? I mean, I know lots of people really really hate Ken Livingston, but enough to foist Johnson on London?


Bob B 05.03.08 at 9:24 am

Notwithstanding Ken and his famed views about the fatalities inflicted by global capitalism, among the causes and consequences of London’s premier standing as a world city:

“The City of London is globalisation in action. It is, first of all, thoroughly international, handling more of the world’s deals in over-the-counter derivatives, global foreign equities, eurobonds and foreign exchange than any other financial centre (see chart 3). Second, its firms specialise in innovative, high-value-added products. Third, the City is living proof that clusters work in the way that economists claim. Capital can move like mercury. The main reason why international finance has made London its home is that everyone is there, making it easier to do complicated deals and to trade quickly in large quantities. The City offers a cluster of talent—financial whizz-kids, lawyers and due-diligence accountants—that is second to none, and self-renewing. It helps that English is a near-universal second language and that London’s time zone makes it possible to trade in a (long) working day with both Asia and America. Regulation is mainly deft but not lax, and the taxman takes a hospitable view of foreigners’ personal earnings.” (subscription)

“The worldwide volume of foreign exchange trading is enormous, and it has ballooned in recent years. In April 1989 the average total value of foreign exchange trading was close to $600 billion per day, of which $184 billion were traded in London, $115 billion in New York, and $111 billion in Tokyo. Fifteen years later, in April 2004, the daily global value of foreign exchange trading had jumped to around $1.9 trillion, of which $753 billion were traded daily in London, $461 billion in New York, and $199 billion in Tokyo.”
Krugman and Obstfeld: International Economics (2006) p.311


abb1 05.03.08 at 9:27 am

So, why did it happen, was it a protest vote? If so, why not it go to the libdem guy? Did the libdem split the vote on the left?

Explain to the unenlightened among you, please.


abb1 05.03.08 at 9:32 am

Strong anti-immigrant sentiment there?


Naadir Jeewa 05.03.08 at 9:45 am

@21. Paddick didn’t split the vote because it was operating on the basis of Single Transferable Vote. It was people who put Paddick as 2nd choice to Boris that counted.


Andy 05.03.08 at 9:45 am

Looking on the bright side, Boris used to be the Tory higher education spokesman. I would far rather he was running london than being in charge of Universities……


Katherine 05.03.08 at 9:52 am

@25 I’m not sure if that’s the case. Looking at the numbers, even after the second preference votes were counted, Johnson still had more first preference votes than Livingstone’s first and second preference votes combined.

Although this was a STV election, most people still think in terms of First Past The Post, so the third candidate, yet again, didn’t really get a look in. That said, I am usually a Lib Dem voter and I didn’t vote for Paddick (although he did get my second preference) – partly because I desperately didn’t want Johnson to win and thus voted for Livingstone, and partly because he just wasn’t that good a candidate I’m afraid. He has some media recognition, but he was kind of a stunt candidate as far as I was concerned, and not really a Lib Dem.


Steven Poole 05.03.08 at 10:02 am

I heard Johnson’s father explaining last night that, because Boris studied Classics, anything else, including running a major city, will be a cakewalk.

You couldn’t make it up!


Bob B 05.03.08 at 10:12 am

“Explain to the unenlightened among you, please.”

Brian Paddick was the Lib-Dem candidate for mayor – this was an interview with him published 13 April:

After going to one of our distinguished local schools in the London borough where I live, he got a first class Oxford degree and, later, a MBA from Warwick, which made him easily the best academically qualified candidate for mayor. He has had prior experience of running large organisations and making and working to budgets, all of which seemed good enough reasons for me to vote for him.


belle le triste 05.03.08 at 10:35 am

some reasons:

1: very strong generic anti-labour vote across the country
2: strong unspecific “vote for change” (related to 1, but less politically savvy)
3: revolt of outer boroughs against transport policy (which requires that they pay — quite a lot — for the privilege of using the inner boroughs as a rat run; and incentivises — via penalisation of alternatives — use of public transport, which the penalisations largely fund, over private transport, which would otherwise be at gridlock levels)
4: amorphous but potentially vicious protest vote against “multicultural society”
5: a city-banker vote against ken cz he’s anti-capitalist (in acts as mayor he isn’t even slightly; but now and then in rhetoric he’s still red ken of yore)

way down list:
6: bendy buses — a ken innovation with mixed response on london streets (they’re long and they’re a pest if yr on eg a bike, they hog lanes and have a huge sweeping and quite dangerous turning circle); as a bus user i’ve gone from disliking them quite a lot to being fine with them
7: a ton of rather unspecific handwavy stuff that ken is a wrong’un — hangs with a bad crowd blah blah (this kind of gladhanding has obsessed a very small number of pseudo-bien-pensant commentators but i doubt swung many votes)
8: the for-a-laff vote, boris is a breath of hilarious air in the general dreary tight-assed world of politics (boris here getting the same kind of pass that mccain gets from journalists and the public — he feels like a change cz he doesn’t put a padlock on his mouth, and the stuff that as a result comes out of it is chuckled away rather than used against him)
9: boris TV persona is cuddly and harmless and bumbling (further to 7, but less “for a laff” as “what harm can he possibly do”)
10: as mayor of a vast vast city with hugely complex conflicting needs and weirdly limited powers, ken has been a pretty good manager, but explain how this is so makes every listener’s eyes glaze over, and large numbers of foax think (like abb1) that “good management” is an oxymoron, so he doesn’t get the benefit of this — it will only be noticed when it is gone

in the pub last night my friends and i were harangued by a cheerful scot — ex-communist — who voted “left list” on primary vote (ie unelectably far left — this is swp territory) and boris on second transferable: his far left credentials established at some length, he happily (and repeatedly) denounced ken as a c*nt, and then something endless abt what his car did to the gallon and how it was a crime he had to pay £25 a time to enter london in it: i wondered if some of this extreme animus was the remains of sectarian ultra-left in-fighting from years back (ken as trot, this guy as old CP — but “left list” is trot-oid also, so that won’t fly)

so anecdotal: but some of the war here is car-users vs bus-users


Naadir Jeewa 05.03.08 at 10:44 am

This is a conversation at work with a conspiracy theorist on election day:

Him: Rant on how the secret world order wont let Obama get the democratic nomination.

Me: Soo….who you voting for?

Him: I don’t like Ken.

Me: Rant on fighting inequality, joint global cities project with Caracas, the difficulty of managing corporate investment and egalitarian concerns, etc…

Him: I see things simplistically, I just don’t like the guy. He creeps me out.

So, there you have it. The thoughts of a free-thinking man, unclouded by the psi-ops mind control of the secret cabal responsible for 911.


belle le triste 05.03.08 at 10:46 am

(re 8&9: not my view in yr getting ready to be riled, my ventriloquising of the possible view of a small number of boris voters)

“as mayor of a vast vast city with hugely complex conflicting needs and weirdly limited powers” — er yes that wd be the MAYOR that has the weirdly limited powers


Naadir Jeewa 05.03.08 at 10:53 am

PS: If anyone wants to reminisce about the good old days, here’s an interview with Livingstone by Prof. Doreen Massey from Soundings Journal.


abb1 05.03.08 at 11:14 am

think (like abb1) that “good management” is an oxymoron

Hey, it’s not true, I protest. It’s quite the opposite. Organizing things is important and this inner-city driving toll, for example, is on of these things.

In fact, it’s my opponents who were arguing that optimization is not management at all. They equate ‘management’ with ‘motivating your underlings’ aka ‘leadership’. Their main argument consisted mainly of a quote from my comment followed by “stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid”. Check it out.


Ben Alpers 05.03.08 at 11:56 am

I’m shocked at how little difference STV seems to have made in terms of people’s voting behavior.

Voters who hated Livingstone had at least two plausible non-Boris Johnson choices. In addition to Paddick, Sian Berry, the Green candidate, seemed (at least from afar) to be a perfectly decent protest vote (and STV makes protest votes free).


johnf 05.03.08 at 2:57 pm

I’m not a Londoner – thank God – horrible snobby, bossy, greedy people – but if I was I’d have voted Ken. Being London mayor doesn’t give you much power, but Ken has used what power he has to improve London’s transport and traffic. Its still terrible but would have been catastrophic without him.

Its worth remembering, though, that while Ken is red and strongly against the Iraq War (not that it makes any difference what the mayor’s foreign policy is), Boris is a sort of palaeo conservative who has also come out strongly against the Iraq War (before he was running for mayor).

I think Ken’s main mistake was ever rejoining Nu Labor. He’s been dragged down by them. And serve him right.


jim 05.03.08 at 3:44 pm

Think of Boris Johnson as being, among politicians, the most perfect antithesis to Gordon Brown possible. His election becomes somewhat less mysterious.

Even so, it’s remarkable.


Bob B 05.03.08 at 7:30 pm

In the news: Boris has signed up and formally starts on Sunday at midnight.

From this, it appears that top priority is being given to a Law ‘n’ Order agenda, which is fair enough given the regular London news of casual stabbings and street robberies but this is staple Tory stuff and hardly novel in respect of policy aims and objectives:

It is yet to be seen whether the policy implementation proves to be innovative, effective and value for money spent.


shteve 05.03.08 at 9:07 pm

“He [Livingstone] was endorsed by the City, for fucks sake”

Perhaps that’s why people refused to vote for him – sharing a lab with the nuts who enriched the debt-uranium that’s about to go off in a nuclear catastrophe of wealth destruction.

Anyone been in a London repossession court lately? Getting uuuugly. Housing is going to be the issue, until the Olympics marketing campaign gets in to full stride.

Anyway, I like both Ken and Boris. And I’d opt for a student of the classics over an economist every time.


Nick 05.03.08 at 10:38 pm

Chances are come the general election Boris’ performance as mayor will be Gordon Brown’s greatest asset . . .


Bob B 05.04.08 at 1:57 am

Boris has some fascinating, innovative ideas about how to make football less boring:


nick s 05.04.08 at 2:54 am

One of Boris’s most high-profile tasks this year?

The Olympic closing ceremony. Take the flag from the mayor of Beijing, wave it about, etc.

I shall be watching from behind the sofa.


mollymooly 05.04.08 at 9:54 am

On a minor point: The mayoral electoral system is not actually STV. It’s a cruder “supplementary Vote” system. Your second-choice can only be counted if it’s for one of the top-two candidates. Understandable that voters treat it like FPTP.


belle le triste 05.04.08 at 12:07 pm

there seems to have been quite an extensive fuck-you-ALL (= futile protest) use of the transferable second vote: viz half a million of em for neither ken nor boris

(source: a friend via glum email so treat fact with caution — he might not know what he’s talkin abt)


James 05.04.08 at 4:29 pm

I worked it out (roughly) at about 250,000 votes that didn’t get transfered.


James 05.04.08 at 4:29 pm

With the gap between Boris and Ken being about 120,000.


David B 05.04.08 at 4:51 pm

As someone who did vote for Boris, let me give some reasons not hitherto mentioned:

a) despite his bumbling persona, Boris is an intelligent and thoughtful person, as shown in his TV history programmes

b) Ken and his cronies repeatedly smeared Boris (as they try to smear all their critics) as a racist, etc. How many of those sneeringly citing the ‘piccanininies’ article have actually read it? If they had, they would know that Boris was putting the word in the mouth of Tony Blair, in a way well within the scope of legitimate satire.

c) over many years Ken Livingstone has cosied up to terrorists and the friends of terrorists. Some of us still remember him chatting to Gerry Adams at the height of an IRA bombing campaign. (OK, so were the Government, secretly, but for defensible reasons, unlike Ken)

d) Ken has cynically cultivated the mad Mullahs, in the belief that they could deliver him a balance-tipping Muslim vote. Alas, even the Muslim vote (which probably means 5 votes per head in some areas), wasn’t enough this time!

e) Ken’s cronies, like the loathsome Lee Jasper, have been milking the taxpayer. Unfortunately Andrew Gilligan’s investigations in the Evening Standard have hardly been reported in the national press, so people outside London are unlikely to appreciate the full extent of Ken’s cronyism. It would be worth voting for Boris just to get rid of the toad.


Tom 05.04.08 at 5:44 pm

I must say, considering the amount of smears and rubbish printed in the Evening Standard over the last few months, the repeated bleat about nasty smearing Ken Livingstone makes me want to laugh uproariously and then vomit on the people making it.

And then vow never, ever to vote Conservative. Wake up, guys, your man got in by using the same tricks Blair and co. have been using for years.


harry b 05.04.08 at 6:30 pm

david b — sometimes it is better not to get what you pray for. I suspect this is one of those cases. But only for Londoners — Boris-voters have done Labour a small favour (and Olympics-haters a big one).


Bob B 05.04.08 at 6:53 pm

Health warning: what follows is my personal interpretation of the politics of getting BJ elected as London mayor based on various clues and hints in the news. I cannot document this and the interpretation may be partly or wholly wrong.

The Conservatives have not finally and demonstrably taken leave of their collective senses in putting up BJ and getting him elected as the Conservative candidate for London mayor. BJ’s capacity for buffoonery and disasters is hardly mythical as the current entry for him on Wikipedia shows:

It was a testimony to the acknowledged electoral potency of Ken Livingstone that it was necessary to find an alternative Big Personality to stand against him and few Conservatives were willing to take on the task of the campaign when there seemed little electoral prospect of success and where the powers of the job are strictly limited – unlike, say, the job of the mayor of New York:

“In broad terms, the mayor is responsible for transport, police and fire services and the general economic development of London. His powers are limited . . ”

Why then the high risk strategy? The motivating intent was to totally humiliate Gordon Brown and New Labour and in this the strategy has been completely successful so far. BJ’s team of (carefully vetted) advisers will ensure that the policies pursued by the mayoralty fully accord with official Conservative thinking.


Chris Williams 05.04.08 at 7:02 pm

david b, I have to break it to you that coming over as ‘intelligent and thoughtful’ on a TV history programme merely proves that you a good presenter. This is a worthwhile talent, and a lot harder than it looks, but in and of itself it doesn’t prove an awful lot more.


Naadir Jeewa 05.04.08 at 7:47 pm

David B, what’s the deal with the five votes per head comment?


bob 05.04.08 at 9:00 pm

I would have voted Boris because I find Livingstone a detestable character for more or less the same reaons detailed by david b, although I am not so sure about the cynical wooing of the Muslim vote. I’m constantly surprised that so many people seem to overlook the man’s awful political posturing.


Steven Poole 05.04.08 at 9:24 pm

How many of those sneeringly citing the ‘piccanininies’ article have actually read it? If they had, they would know that Boris was putting the word in the mouth of Tony Blair, in a way well within the scope of legitimate satire.

Um, not exactly:

What a relief it must be for Blair to get out of England. It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies; and one can imagine that Blair, twice victor abroad but enmired at home, is similarly seduced by foreign politeness.

They say he is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.


Kieran Healy 05.04.08 at 9:54 pm

Um, not exactly:

You mean “Not at all.” Honestly, Steven, try to be a little more precise in your use of words.


Bob B 05.04.08 at 10:10 pm

Sorry, but I think that @54 misses the essential point.

The point of BJ’s successful candidacy was to disseminate this sub-text message:

The Conservatives, with David Cameron’s leadership, new policies and a honed election machine, are now capable of getting even BJ elected as London mayor despite KL’s potent image. New Labour has now been vanquished in London as well as the rest of the south east.


herr doktor bimler 05.04.08 at 10:23 pm

a manifestly decent challenger (who, in addition to being gay, is related to Hugh Paddick!)
After a tease like that, I expected lengthy excerpts from “Round the Horne” scripts further down in the post. Imagine the depths of my disappointment.


Bob B 05.04.08 at 10:36 pm

There is absolutely nothing teasing about the interview at the link in #29. It is brutally open and frank.


harry b 05.05.08 at 1:18 am

The anti-Livingstone vote simply won’t wash. As bob b points out if you wanted to vote out Livingstone, or vote against Labour, it was perfectly easy to do so without risking f***ing up the city, ut voting for Paddick. Just about eveything that Paddick has going for him, Johnson has going against him.


Bob B 05.05.08 at 2:43 am

Harry, this is a high stakes game. Conservative Central Office knows perfectly well that if BJ f**ks up then that will be hugely damaging to Conservative prospects in London and beyond at the general election.

The fact is that London’s economy prospered during KL’s eight years as mayor – mostly, not because of what he did but because of what he didn’t do. The silly, socialist stuff was mainly rhetoric although there was too much wasteful tax ‘n’ spending going on.

David Cameron is very much associated with BJ’s candidacy so if he flounders badly then DC will have to take the blame, which I’m sure he appreciates and will therefore take necessary administrative precautions against contingencies.


Tom 05.05.08 at 8:50 am

Boris isn’t going to screw up because David Cameron won’t let him, becaues Cameron has so much more practical administrative experience than Boris Johnson? Give over. I reckon they won’t see all the banana skins in time to avoid at least one big one.

Example: Boris is going to have an immediate hole in his budget if he tries to implement his manifesto commitments to ‘reform’ (scrap) the CC western extension (40m) and replace bendy buses (114m), to the tune of about 150m quid, mostly in recurring costs like extra drivers, conductors and lost CC revenue. Some of that comes back from slightly increased bus revenue and decreased CC operating costs (assuming the just-awarded contract can be renegotiated downwards), but the rest has to be found from somewhere else, while you’ve just been running an election campaign giving everyone the impression that you’re going to cost them less. What’s to be cut? Police budget? Fire service? Anti-terror measures? Olympic transport improvements? Remember, Lee Jasper got into trouble over a mere 500k, so don’t assume there’s a magic pot of crony wasted money around.

What ‘silly, socialist stuff?’, anyway?


stuart 05.05.08 at 9:09 am

bob b, while they can probably manage his policies to avoid embarassment in that area, are they going to send him around for the next four years (or however long the term is) wearing a gag? I can see nothing short of that being enough to avoid a fairly solid stream of gaffes and negative sound bites, and as we know policy achievements are a trivial part of modern politics.


Stuart White 05.05.08 at 11:46 am

Labour ‘vanquished…in the South East’? Well, I know what you mean, but Labour did gain 4 seats in Oxford and become the governing party on the council again….


Bob B 05.05.08 at 12:02 pm

@61: We can only wait and see but I expect that it has been impressed upon BJ in discrete ways what the political cost of gaffes could be at the general election with, perhaps, occasional reminders from his fellow Etonian of the Duke of Wellington’s reputed observation that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of the old school.

Btw nowadays, we are very properly concerned about about the care of battlefield casualties among our troops but I suspect we incline to under-rate the scale of slaughter in those historic battles of the Napoleonic wars two centuries ago and that is a mistake. The combined casualty rate on both sides at Waterloo in 1815 exceeded 6,000 an hour:

Casualty lists for Waterloo, posted on the web, include many surnames from the most illustrious families in Britain so it wouldn’t be at all surprising if many of the commissioned officers had attended Eton as pupils. Late during the battle of Waterloo, Henry Paget was on horse besides Wellington when his leg was hit by a cannon shot. He exclaimed, “By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!” — to which Wellington looked down and replied, “By God, sir, so you have!” and reputedly resumed his survey of the battle through his telescope.

Curiously, as a link with those times, David Cameron is apparently a descendent of one of King William IV’s many illegitimate children.

As for Oxford, the university famously declined to award an honorary degree to Margaret Thatcher – possibly for reasons explored at length in Simon Jenkins: Thatcher and Sons (Penguin Books, 2006)


Martin Wisse 05.05.08 at 1:57 pm

reject a manifestly competent (if not especially likeable) incumbent, and a manifestly decent challenger (who, in addition to being gay, is related to Hugh Paddick!)

Of course, only a moron would believe the Lib Dems had any hope of winning this election, but thank you so very much for throwing the election to Boris.

And you forgot to mention Brian was in favour of killing Brazilian electricians, which can’t have helped.


harry b 05.05.08 at 2:16 pm

MArtin — are you criticising me? I’d have gone for Livingstone first, Paddick second. My point above was just that if you wanted to be rid of Livingstone that was no reason at all to give first preference to Johnson — at best second preference after Paddick. Those who voted for Johnson had to have other reasons than dislike for Livingstone’s moral character (not least because there is no reason at all to believe that it is worse than Johnson’s). All this in spite of bob b’s rosy optimism about the ability of Tory central office to control BJ.


Stigand 05.05.08 at 2:37 pm

I don’t see why people are so surprised that Boris was elected. In many ways, Ken was a victim of his own success.

Ken did a good job of running London for 8 years, but he was a pretty off-the-wall candidate when he first ran for Mayor. You could argue he made the world (or at least the London mayoralty) safe for philandering eccentrics with a dubious record in public administration and a sideline in borderline-racist comments.

By all means disagree with Boris’s politics, but don’t be surprised the people of London elected him, given their previous form.


Katherine 05.05.08 at 2:41 pm

Harry be realistic. People who hated Ken were hardly likely to be the types lining up to vote for a gay ex-copper who created a cannabis-tolerance zone in Brixton. Also, I think UK voters really really aren’t used to the idea of transferable voting. We’re not used to it, and the tactics of it are not simple.

There was no media discussion whatsoever of the tactical possibilities inherent in the system. Indeed, I consider myself relatively savvy when it comes elections and voting and it took me a good long while on the internet to even find an official explanation of how the Mayoral and the GLA voting system works.

Basically, the whole thing was treated as a FPTP elections between Johnson and Livingstone, by both the media and the electorate.


harry b 05.05.08 at 2:44 pm

I don’t agree about Ken being an off-the-wall candidate the first time round (although I do agree with the second sentence in your second para!). He is manifestly a Londoner, who has never spent a significant amount of time away from the city, is manifestly in love with the city, and is widely known (maybe not by the electorate) to have an amazing command of the detail of policymaking. (I once heard an official serving a committee he was on in the 70s that you would give the elected members a massive box of information that they couldn’t possibly get their heads around so that you could get them to do what you wanted, you’d go into the meeting, and find to your dismay that Livingstone had more command of the details than you did). None of this could be said of BJ.


harry b 05.05.08 at 3:21 pm

katherine — sorry, I should have been more specific — I was only criticising whoever it was on this thread who said they voted for BJ because they disliked Ken. I imagine most people who voted for BJ did so because they resent the congestion charge. I don’t mean to imply that voters were duped, or anything like that. I accept the point about people not understanding the system or how to use it. It is not a good idea to have a wide variety of voting systems in place, nor (in my opinion) to have the proliferation of levels of government that new labour has encouraged. (I was opposed to setting up the office of Mayor in the first place, and remain opposed to it, but that’s another story).


Stigand 05.05.08 at 5:04 pm

Harry – I agree with your observation that Livingstone is administratively competent (not to mention pragmatic – and I mean that as a compliment).

But I’m not sure this is how he came across to voters in 2000: I think that then he looked like a charismatic cheeky chappy who didn’t mind pissing off the powers that be – a sort of left-wing Boris Johnson.

There is an interesting element to the whole Ken/Boris story. Is it true that certain politicians, by virtue of their eccentric image, can get away with saying things that would cause a more self-consciously serious politician to resign, or at least do some serious back-peddling? It seems to me that Ken’s comments about concentration camp guards and Boris’s remarks about piccaninnies (both of which the electorate seems largely to have ignored) are the kind of things that would have spelled doom for, an earnest brainiac like Ed Balls. It’s as if certain politicians are treated as latterday jesters, with a licence to say silly, offensive things in return for being generally frank and entertaining.


engels 05.05.08 at 7:03 pm

Shorter Stigand: On one occasion while being harassed by a reporter Livingstone lashed out with a comment which was insensitive but not racist. I affect to see no significant difference between this incident and Johnson’s lifelong litany of gaffes, insults and casual racism, expressed not only verbally but in published articles.


harry b 05.05.08 at 7:17 pm

Yes, I agree that some people get a pass. But for different reasons. In the run up to the 2000 election EVERYBODY knew that New Labour was doing whatever it could to make sure Livingstone lost — he said, during the campaign, that if dismembered bodies were discovered in his house with his fingerprints all over the axe, he thought most people would suspect that he had been set up by New Labour, which was right. This was 15 years after the GLC had been abolished for no apparent reason other than his media-savvy and effective leadership of it. Boris Johnson?

And engels comment seems right to me — there is a big difference between the comment Livingstone made in response to someone harrassing him (a social peer, what’s more) and Johnson’s history which dates back a long way (to the Bullingdon Club — whose behaviour, by the way, has been stunningly underplayed by the press, does no-one from Oxford at that time remember what they used to do? Kids from my school used to go to prison for less, but they were oiks of course).


Bob B 05.05.08 at 7:34 pm

Is this to be the way of the future? Readers may be interested to read this in the New Statesman on 3 May:

“Claire Provost, reporting on a demonstration outside City Hall on the night of the London mayoral count, finds herself put in a pen in by police. A case of democracy in action?”


James 05.05.08 at 11:19 pm

Check out the figures here, including the second preferences for all the candidates:


The BNP was the first or second choice of fully 8%.

However, with regard to the electoral system, look at the numbers of spoiled votes (450,000) and votes with no second preference (400,000). Combined they almost match Livingstone’s first preference vote. Seems very high, no?


harry b 05.06.08 at 2:52 am

james –thanks. They list rejected 1st choice votes and rejected second choice votes separately. Did each voter have two separate papers? I don’t understand exactly what didn’t get counted. The figures do, indeed, look extremely high, in both cases.


harry b 05.06.08 at 2:53 am

Also, why did anyone vote second choice for anyone but KL or BJ?


Alex 05.06.08 at 8:31 am

Because they thought “it says second so it must be secondary”.


Nick 05.06.08 at 8:55 am

Pure guesswork, but I should imagine the reason so many ballots were rejected because of an incorrectly cast second preference would be that people thought, having marked their first preference, they were then being asked to vote for more than one other candidate or to list all candidates in order of preference . . . ?
(‘Pure guesswork’ because having escaped from London a few years ago I no longer have to trudge down to Battersea Arts Centre every couple of years & try to dodge the party activists trying to relieve me of my polling card outside the polling station . . .)


Bob B 05.06.08 at 10:16 am

“in spite of bob b’s rosy optimism”

What I’m saying is that David Cameron’s close association with BJ – they even went to the same school – will be a restraining influence. If that restraining influence doesn’t prove effective then the Conseravtives will surely pay a political price at the general election.

An interesting but neglected issue is the prospective influence of BJ’s classical education – a 2:1 in classics at Oxford – on the governance of London. I mean, will BJ be taking a horse into the London general assembly on the grounds that Caligula set a compelling precedent?

I can foresee many brushing up on Suetonius: Lives of the Twelve Caesars, for guidance as to omens.


David B 05.06.08 at 1:58 pm

I slightly misremembered the ‘piccaninies’ article. I didn’t misremember the basic point that it was not expressing any racist view of Boris Johnson – as alleged by Ken’s cronies – but making a satirical point against Tony Blair. Does anyone disagree?

Boris as TV presenter: If I recall correctly, Boris wrote the scripts himself, and knows the subjects well. Correct me if I am wrong (I’m sure you will!)

5 Muslim votes per head: I wouldn’t claim that electoral fraud in Britain is confined to the Muslim community, but virtually all the recent cases have involved South Asians. I don’t think this is seriously in doubt.


harry b 05.06.08 at 6:09 pm

Well, I can’t get poole’s link to work, but the context of the quote as he blocks it is, in fact, fairly damning.

I don’t think Boris is stupid, though most of the kids I went to school with could have written those scripts if the kind of resources that went into Boris’s education. But, as dsquared points out in an earlier post, plenty of smart people cannot manage. My worry about bob b’s optimistic hypothesis is that Boris not only cannot manage, but can’t be managed. But we’ll see!


Bob B 05.06.08 at 8:30 pm

The London Evening Standard is evidently devoting much regular pictorial coverage and reportage to the new London mayor:

We’ve had pictures of Boris jogging and bicycling, laughing and looking mean. The lead is still on being especially tough on youth crime. Today’s call is to set up 100 “respect schools” – Saturday courses where troubled teenagers can combine sport and academic subjects:

Great. I hope it works. Twelve young men killed in London so far this year is a dozen too many.

What isn’t encouraging is this kind of spin in one report – quoting: “The meeting comes amid reports that Mr Johnson had put Britain’s most senior policeman on notice to dramatically cut crime or face the axe.”

The fact is that the London mayor can’t sack the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police – only the government can do that and only the government can appoint the Commissioner. My guess is that if the Commissioner, or anyone else, knew where to find a silver bullet that could curb violent youth crime than it wouldn’t be the problem that it is.

For any here sufficiently interested to keep up with the pics of Boris doing things and all the spin, I can only suggest bookmarking the webpage of: This is London, and dipping in from time to time.


Bob B 05.06.08 at 8:46 pm

This evening’s news from London doesn’t look to be an auspicious start to curbing violent crime:

A gunman has fired for a second time on armed police officers in a stand-off near the King’s Road, Chelsea, a highly fashionable part of London – “So far there are no injuries and no one has been arrested.”


James 05.06.08 at 10:33 pm

No Harry, there was a single ballot for the Mayoral, with two columns – mark an x in Column A for your first pref and an x in Column B for your second. Seems so much easier to have a single column and mark a “1” and a “2” (and why not a 3, 4, 5 etc.) no? But then I’m used to Irish PR-STV so maybe that’s just me.

So I imagine that the 40,000 rejected first ballots are people who botched the whole thing and thus had their whole vote rejected, whereas the 400,000 rejected second preferences may have had their first but not their second preference counted. But it’s not entirely clear from the results page I linked too, certainly.


Bob B 05.07.08 at 9:32 am

More important now IMO than continuing to speculate on whether BJ is an incorrigible or redeemable buffoon is to observe and assess the styles and ways of the new mayoralty in London.

As best I can tell, BJ seems to have adopted wholesale the Blairite innovations in spin and PR presentation, so we have lots of pics of BJ doing incidental things – jogging, cycling – with much instructing of officials to do what is expected of them in the New Order along with dire threats as to the fate that will befall them if they fail to come up with the goodies.

All that has been welded on to pre-Thatcherite Tory habits, namely in government you don’t waste time on analysing problems or issues. What you do is to find some plausible person to solve the problem and appoint him (it is usually a him) to do so with much fanfare. If (when) he doesn’t solve the problem, he gets fired. Top down prevails.

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