Race to be Mayor: the final verdict

0

Comments

Add +

As Londoners prepare to cast their votes for Mayor, Time Out takes a final look at bumbling Boris and cunning Ken and asks: what is in store for our city?

  • Ruthlessness | Nationality | The numbers game | The mayoral circle | The verdict

    The contest has embraced everything from bendy buses to the Beard Liberation Front. Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson, two titans of celebrity politics, are near the end of the mayoral battle and in just over a week one or the other will – and yes, it’s a disconcerting image – be standing triumphantly astride the London electorate. Despite Brian Paddick and Siân Berry’s best efforts, this is now a two-horse race. The polls are mainly tipping Boris, but polls have as much of a history of being wrong as of being right. Almost no one can predict whether on May 2 we will be painting the town red or hymning the blues.

    Britain’s voting tradition is not so much democratic as bulimic. All too often, rather than electing new regimes, we regurgitate old ones. Disenchantment with Gordon Brown, and an unfocused desire to see change after eight years of Ken, may yet work in favour of the Tory whose many improbable qualities include resembling the lovechild of a dandelion and a wildebeest.

    Whoever wins will need to be powerful in a crisis. Forget the jokes, and imagine how Boris will act if another terrorist attack happens. He or Ken will be presiding over a city that’s enduring a rough ride financially, too: the credit crunch means that London’s economy will be less about Champagne and bonuses, and more about shut-downs and redundancies. In this final week before the election, Time Out looks at each of the candidates’ record and behaviour in four key areas and asks who will be better – the blond stutteringly trying to encourage us to love the new, or the old-timer most famed for his love of newts?

    Ruthlessness | Nationality | The numbers game | The mayoral circle | The verdict

    Ruthlessness

    Lynton Crosby, the right-wing Australian campaign manager, seems to have Boris in a Faustian pact: so long as he agrees to be castrated of verbal dexterity and charisma for the campaign, he will have the glistening glass testicle of City Hall as his reward. To the dismay of the Beard Liberation Front he has also had a haircut – they were reported in The Sun as saying that his organic hairstyle was essential to his character, and even suggested that he might pair it up with a moustache.But these superficial transformations are nothing compared to the U-turns he has made on the environment (he voted against Kyoto) and race (see Nationality, below). True, everyone has a right to change politically. Yet Boris, according to Rupert Read – a Green Party city councillor in Norwich, who was a contemporary of Boris’ at Oxford University, and prominent in the SDP club there – has a history of cynically remoulding his views to make himself more electable, and then changing them back again once he’s won. ‘My experience of Boris at Oxford was that while as a person he’s different – he’s funnier than most politicians – as a politician he’s not different,’ says Read. ‘Boris was prepared to do whatever it took to get elected. In the run up to the Oxford Union presidential campaign, he let people have the impression that he was an SDP sympathiser. (This has also been chronicled by respected American pollster Frank Luntz – who saw it as key to Boris winning the presidency.) Afterwards he and I were talking about having a debate at the Oxford Union focused on the SDP Liberal alliance. Johnson suggested the motion be titled “The Alliance is Not Fit To Govern”.’ In the same election, Read describes the commotion that broke out at a meeting when it emerged that Boris ‘gave an assurance to two people who were running for the same post that he was supporting them both. Now you might say that that was student politics, but in Oxford, student politics isn’t just student politics: the stakes are very high. Becoming president of the Oxford Union is a potential ticket to becoming an MP. And it worries me that this ruthless and opportunistic behaviour is exhibited by this lovely but problematic man who is now standing for Mayor.’ This all raises serious questions about Boris’ attempts to endear himself to the London electorate. One example of his current shift towards a more liberal identity is his blithely dubbing himself a ‘polymorphous pervert’ to The Independent during this campaign: this the man who voted against gay couples’ right to adopt in 2002. However, John Lebor, a former leader of Brent Council, also has memories of Ken’s ruthlessness in the ’80s – though in strong contrast this was based on an ideological clash, rather than hypocrisy. A Labour moderate, Lebor was deselected by militant supporters of Livingstone and temporarily ejected from the Labour Party. This was shortly before Livingstone won first the nomination, and then the parliamentary seat for Brent. Despite this bruising episode, Lebor is still fond of Ken on a personal level. ‘If ever I needed Ken to help me in any way – [ such as] entertaining someone in the House of Commons, Ken would always be there.’ But Lebor, who is Jewish, still worries about Ken’s anti-Israel stance: though the current mayor isn’t anti-Semitic, his career-long condemnation of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians has inevitably provoked hostility from the Jewish community. Geoffrey Alderman, professor of politics and contemporary history at the University of Buckingham, wrote in The Guardian’s Comment is Free that he could not think why any Jew would give Ken a third term in office. Yet Lebor remains politically loyal: ‘On the whole, I’d vote for him.’Ruthlessness | Nationality | The numbers game | The mayoral circle | The verdict

    Nationality

    By this stage in the election it’s lazy journalism to refer to the piccaninnies article, not least because there’s a wealth of Boris’ other writing to draw from. Even allowing that the instinct which makes a good writer is diametrically opposite to that which makes a good politician – the first subverts conventional thinking, the latter embraces it – his attempts to reach out to disaffected black youth stand awkwardly next to what he’s penned in the past. ‘When I shamble around the park in my running gear late at night, and I come across that bunch of black kids, shrieking in the spooky corner by the disused gents, I would love to pretend that I don’t turn a hair,’ he wrote in his anthology ‘Lend Me Your Ears’. ‘The trouble is… I have prejudged this group on the basis of press reports, possibly in the right-wing newspapers, about the greater likelihood of being mugged by young black males than by any other group. And if that is racial prejudice, then I am guilty’. ‘Racist’ is too blunt a term – consider how many miles politically Boris stands from the BNP. But it’s clear that as a writer he feels a largely white and privileged audience is the one most worth addressing.So, while the bells in the fairy story told Dick Whittington to turn again, the biggest question in this tale of our times is will Johnson U-turn again? While Gracia McGrath, chief executive of Chance UK, welcomes Boris’ current attempts to find positive ways to work with young boys who might end up in gangs, Uanu Seshmi, the director of the Peckham-based role-model provider ‘From Boyhood to Manhood’, says ‘When I talk to the young people I work with about this they say “he probably needs our vote”. How can a leopard change his spots? I believe he is a good person. But I don’t believe he will be better than Ken, and I think it’s sad that individuals are using the murder of young people as a political stepping stone.’Ruthlessness | Nationality | The numbers game | The mayoral circle | The verdict

    The numbers game

    It’s alarmingly clear, when you listen to Boris, that this particular devil isn’t into detail. The Routemaster calculation cock-up, and major profiles by journalists as diverse as the FT’s Gideon Rachman (‘For a man who is brilliantly articulate in print, Johnson can be strikingly inarticulate in person’), and AA Gill (‘He is swallowing the ends of sentences, stopping, losing his place, shouting when he loses the thread’), have all highlighted how regularly his rhetoric flounders. Ken, however, long ago learned the politician’s trick of having an almost autistic grasp of detail while maintaining charm. Independent columnist Johann Hari praises him for responding to questions about gay Londoners ‘without notes – with a battery of statistics.’ Politics by numbers isn’t everything – thank God – but facts and smart quotable answers suggest basic professionalism. If he wants this job so badly, why is Johnson unable to display his much-touted brilliance in these areas?Ruthlessness | Nationality | The numbers game | The mayoral circle | The verdict

    The Mayoral circle

    The Evening Standard, led by editor Veronica Wadley’s personal pitbull, journalist Andrew Gilligan, has waged a relentless campaign resulting in Lee Jasper, Ken’s race advisor, being suspended for alleged misappropriation of funds. And Rosemary Emodi, Jasper’s deputy, was forced to resign after it emerged she had lied about a free luxury trip to Nigeria. However, of equal concern is why the rhetorically floundering Johnson is waiting so long to select his own team. Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive of business organisation London First, and Tony Travers, director of the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics – both politically neutral – point out the Tory campaign would gain crucial confidence if the people who would support Boris professionally were confirmed. Travers declares, frankly, that the Tories ‘need for their own sake to make sure it is known who would run things if their candidate became Mayor’.Ruthlessness | Nationality | The numbers game | The mayoral circle | The verdict

    The Verdict

    Two flawed, very different men. One, it’s said, a clown disguised as a megalomaniac, the other a megalomaniac disguised as a clown. As London faces the challenges of economic downturn, shifting ethnic makeup, and the consequences of climate change, who is the best to take us forward? Make your mind up – for the right reasons – because on May 2, there’s no turning back.

  • Add your comment to this feature

Whoever wins will need to be powerful in a crisis. Forget the jokes, and imagine how Boris will act if another terrorist attack happens. He or Ken will be presiding over a city that’s enduring a rough ride financially, too: the credit crunch means that London’s economy will be less about Champagne and bonuses, and more about shut-downs and redundancies. In this final week before the election, Time Out looks at each of the candidates’ record and behaviour in four key areas and asks who will be better – the blond stutteringly trying to encourage us to love the new, or the old-timer most famed for his love of newts?Ruthlessness | Nationality | The numbers game | The mayoral circle | The verdictLynton Crosby, the right-wing Australian campaign manager, seems to have Boris in a Faustian pact: so long as he agrees to be castrated of verbal dexterity and charisma for the campaign, he will have the glistening glass testicle of City Hall as his reward. To the dismay of the Beard Liberation Front he has also had a haircut – they were reported in The Sun as saying that his organic hairstyle was essential to his character, and even suggested that he might pair it up with a moustache.But these superficial transformations are nothing compared to the U-turns he has made on the environment (he voted against Kyoto) and race (see Nationality, below). True, everyone has a right to change politically. Yet Boris, according to Rupert Read – a Green Party city councillor in Norwich, who was a contemporary of Boris’ at Oxford University, and prominent in the SDP club there – has a history of cynically remoulding his views to make himself more electable, and then changing them back again once he’s won. ‘My experience of Boris at Oxford was that while as a person he’s different – he’s funnier than most politicians – as a politician he’s not different,’ says Read. ‘Boris was prepared to do whatever it took to get elected. In the run up to the Oxford Union presidential campaign, he let people have the impression that he was an SDP sympathiser. (This has also been chronicled by respected American pollster Frank Luntz – who saw it as key to Boris winning the presidency.) Afterwards he and I were talking about having a debate at the Oxford Union focused on the SDP Liberal alliance. Johnson suggested the motion be titled “The Alliance is Not Fit To Govern”.’ In the same election, Read describes the commotion that broke out at a meeting when it emerged that Boris ‘gave an assurance to two people who were running for the same post that he was supporting them both. Now you might say that that was student politics, but in Oxford, student politics isn’t just student politics: the stakes are very high. Becoming president of the Oxford Union is a potential ticket to becoming an MP. And it worries me that this ruthless and opportunistic behaviour is exhibited by this lovely but problematic man who is now standing for Mayor.’ This all raises serious questions about Boris’ attempts to endear himself to the London electorate. One example of his current shift towards a more liberal identity is his blithely dubbing himself a ‘polymorphous pervert’ to The Independent during this campaign: this the man who voted against gay couples’ right to adopt in 2002. However, John Lebor, a former leader of Brent Council, also has memories of Ken’s ruthlessness in the ’80s – though in strong contrast this was based on an ideological clash, rather than hypocrisy. A Labour moderate, Lebor was deselected by militant supporters of Livingstone and temporarily ejected from the Labour Party. This was shortly before Livingstone won first the nomination, and then the parliamentary seat for Brent. Despite this bruising episode, Lebor is still fond of Ken on a personal level. ‘If ever I needed Ken to help me in any way – [ such as] entertaining someone in the House of Commons, Ken would always be there.’ But Lebor, who is Jewish, still worries about Ken’s anti-Israel stance: though the current mayor isn’t anti-Semitic, his career-long condemnation of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians has inevitably provoked hostility from the Jewish community. Geoffrey Alderman, professor of politics and contemporary history at the University of Buckingham, wrote in The Guardian’s Comment is Free that he could not think why any Jew would give Ken a third term in office. Yet Lebor remains politically loyal: ‘On the whole, I’d vote for him.’Ruthlessness | Nationality | The numbers game | The mayoral circle | The verdict
By this stage in the election it’s lazy journalism to refer to the piccaninnies article, not least because there’s a wealth of Boris’ other writing to draw from. Even allowing that the instinct which makes a good writer is diametrically opposite to that which makes a good politician – the first subverts conventional thinking, the latter embraces it – his attempts to reach out to disaffected black youth stand awkwardly next to what he’s penned in the past. ‘When I shamble around the park in my running gear late at night, and I come across that bunch of black kids, shrieking in the spooky corner by the disused gents, I would love to pretend that I don’t turn a hair,’ he wrote in his anthology ‘Lend Me Your Ears’. ‘The trouble is… I have prejudged this group on the basis of press reports, possibly in the right-wing newspapers, about the greater likelihood of being mugged by young black males than by any other group. And if that is racial prejudice, then I am guilty’. ‘Racist’ is too blunt a term – consider how many miles politically Boris stands from the BNP. But it’s clear that as a writer he feels a largely white and privileged audience is the one most worth addressing.So, while the bells in the fairy story told Dick Whittington to turn again, the biggest question in this tale of our times is will Johnson U-turn again? While Gracia McGrath, chief executive of Chance UK, welcomes Boris’ current attempts to find positive ways to work with young boys who might end up in gangs, Uanu Seshmi, the director of the Peckham-based role-model provider ‘From Boyhood to Manhood’, says ‘When I talk to the young people I work with about this they say “he probably needs our vote”. How can a leopard change his spots? I believe he is a good person. But I don’t believe he will be better than Ken, and I think it’s sad that individuals are using the murder of young people as a political stepping stone.’Ruthlessness | Nationality | The numbers game | The mayoral circle | The verdict
It’s alarmingly clear, when you listen to Boris, that this particular devil isn’t into detail. The Routemaster calculation cock-up, and major profiles by journalists as diverse as the FT’s Gideon Rachman (‘For a man who is brilliantly articulate in print, Johnson can be strikingly inarticulate in person’), and AA Gill (‘He is swallowing the ends of sentences, stopping, losing his place, shouting when he loses the thread’), have all highlighted how regularly his rhetoric flounders. Ken, however, long ago learned the politician’s trick of having an almost autistic grasp of detail while maintaining charm. Independent columnist Johann Hari praises him for responding to questions about gay Londoners ‘without notes – with a battery of statistics.’ Politics by numbers isn’t everything – thank God – but facts and smart quotable answers suggest basic professionalism. If he wants this job so badly, why is Johnson unable to display his much-touted brilliance in these areas?Ruthlessness | Nationality | The numbers game | The mayoral circle | The verdict
The Evening Standard, led by editor Veronica Wadley’s personal pitbull, journalist Andrew Gilligan, has waged a relentless campaign resulting in Lee Jasper, Ken’s race advisor, being suspended for alleged misappropriation of funds. And Rosemary Emodi, Jasper’s deputy, was forced to resign after it emerged she had lied about a free luxury trip to Nigeria. However, of equal concern is why the rhetorically floundering Johnson is waiting so long to select his own team. Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive of business organisation London First, and Tony Travers, director of the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics – both politically neutral – point out the Tory campaign would gain crucial confidence if the people who would support Boris professionally were confirmed. Travers declares, frankly, that the Tories ‘need for their own sake to make sure it is known who would run things if their candidate became Mayor’.Ruthlessness | Nationality | The numbers game | The mayoral circle | The verdict
Two flawed, very different men. One, it’s said, a clown disguised as a megalomaniac, the other a megalomaniac disguised as a clown. As London faces the challenges of economic downturn, shifting ethnic makeup, and the consequences of climate change, who is the best to take us forward? Make your mind up – for the right reasons – because on May 2, there’s no turning back.

Users say

0 comments