Being a slimey-limey—and a grotty Londoner to boot—I want to bore you all about tomorrow’s mayoral election in Britain’s capital. There has been no shortage of good articles about the contest in the American press, though I think it still merits a mention on this blog.
The election is in some ways a good-old clash of Left v. Right. In the blue (Conservative) corner sits Boris Johnson, the former Spectator editor, perhaps the finest journalist of his generation, and an authentic conservative. In the red corner is the incumbent, Ken Livingstone—aka Red Ken—a committed international socialist, a devout multi-culturalist, and the sort of politician who would never get near power in America.
There are important issues at stake—taxes, congestion charges, transport etc– but the personality clash is what has really fascinated the public. This is not to say that the duel has been superficial. Far from it, here we have two very different attitudes to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Indeed, Londoners have a choice between an old New Brit, in Ken, and New Old Brit, in Boris. The decision they make will be important for Britain.
A Leftie friend who used to regularly interview Livingstone vouches for his moral integrity. But I find it difficult to accept. This is a man who has spent millions of taxpayer money promoting his own image; who struck a deal with the crooked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to get cheap oil for London buses; who has ties to the most unsavory Islamic extremists; and who has expanded the size and responsibility — not to mention cost — of his mayoral office enormously.
Ken has tried to move away from his angry communist youth, but the revolutionary antagonist in him slips out at crucial moments. When terrorists bombed London in July 2005, for example, the city’s mayor condemned the attacks for being aimed at “ordinary, working class” Londoners, as if bourgeois citizens were legitimate targets.
Boris Johnson, on the other hand, should not be accused of class hatred, though he is despised for being upper class. He has offended many self-ascribed “working class” people, in Liverpool and Portsmouth. He has endlessly been accused of racism. He is often called an “idiot” or a “clown” by people of very limited intellect. Yet he remains amazingly popular because he is very funny, charming and obviously right on many issues. And, TAC readers take note, he is opposed to the Iraq War from a Right-wing perspective (although he did support the invasion initially).
Unfortunately, Conservative Central Office—desperate to win this election and score an important point against Labour—has really got their claws into Boris. His recent public performances have been depressingly staid and earnest. If it wasn’t for the unkempt mop and perpetual “erring”, you could mistake Johnson for a normal politician. Many Londoners hope that he will win tomorrow, and go back to his old self as the new Mayor of their great city.