For the second time in his two careers as leader of London, Ken Livingstone has been kicked out of office largely due to the voters in the outer London suburbs.
However, this time it doesn’t leave such a bad taste in the mouth as when the voters of the London Borough of Bromley and other Conservative boroughs on the edge of London managed to achieve the abolition of the GLC, of which Ken Livingstone was the leader.
This time the London Assembly at City Hall, and the office of London Mayor, continue, with Conservative Boris Johnson at the helm as the new Mayor.
He deserves a chance to prove himself capable of the high level of responsibility now put on his shoulders. Most people see him as a buffoon, but on the other hand he is certainly an extrovert personality and something of a political maverick frequently out-of-control of his Party, much like Ken Livingstone was. Indeed Livingstone was first elected to the office of London Mayor eight years ago as an independent, in opposition to the Labour candidate for the post. He’d been kicked out of the Labour Party, and was only re-admitted due to his great popularity with Londoners. London seems to go for these extrovert, maverick characters, and it is good because they are likely to put London first and foremost, rather than strictly follow the instructions of their Party headquarters.
It is a shame that, having helped win the 2012 Olympics for London, Ken Livingstone should now be denied the chance to host the Games as Mayor. But if he decides to stand again in four years time there’s still a chance he could be Mayor at the time of the London Olympics in August 2012.
Boris Johnson will either make a good job of being London Mayor, or he’ll make a complete mess of it, in which case he may well damage the Tories’ chance of getting re-elected into government in 2010. Either way, we may eventually benefit from his victory in the 2008 Mayorial contest.
Both Ken and Boris gave good speeches following the result, Boris praising Ken for his years as the first London Mayor, and Ken saying he must take the blame for not getting re-elected. This was probably too hard on Ken – it was actually a combination of factors.Â
Tory voters in places like Bromley, where they were lining up outside polling stations to vote Ken out of office. Bromley and similar Outer London boroughs don’t feel part of the capital city, and never have done. They feel they are part of the rural Home Counties surrounding London, and this is reflected by their outdated postal addresses which they refuse to give up – a form of snobbery, insisting they are still located in counties like Kent, Surrey, Hertfordshire and Essex, when in fact they are suburbs of the metropolis. London Boroughs coming under the auspices of City Hall.
Another factor was 11 years of an unpopular Labour government which took us into an illegal war in Iraq, and which has allowed knife/gunÂ crime and gang warfare to take over whole areas of cities, and removed real policemen from the streets, creating no-go areas. And which has allowed Britain to be swamped by economic immigrants from Eastern Europe and elsewhere, working for very low wages, jumping social housing queues and putting British people out of jobs.
Gordon Brown has been even worse as Prime Minister than Tony Blair. Brown needs to be ditched pronto if Labour stands any chance of winning the next General Election, and New Labour ditchedÂ with him. Tony Benn said on TV following the election of Boris Johnson, that New Labour was, in fact, a different political party to Labour, and that he’d never joined this New Labour Party. He is right – we want old Labour back, the one which had some principles and wasn’t just the Tory Party mark 2 with a PM who is a poodle of American foreign policy. This unprincipled New Labour Party which has ruled Britain for over a decade, bowing to every whim of American foreign policy, undoubtedly lost Labour Mayor Ken Livingstone many votes. He might have done better if he were still an independent.
The third reason Boris replace Ken as Mayor was the vicious campaign by the London Evening Standard, London’s only newspaper (not counting the free give-away ones), which daily plastered London with billboards accusing Mayor Livingstone of all sorts of sleaze. This must have had an effect on Londoners who saw these billboards, even if they never read the newspaper.
But despite all this, Ken Livingstone increased his vote by some 200,000 on the last London Mayorial contest 4 years ago. He only got pipped to the post byÂ 140,000 votes, in a contest where both Ken and Boris got over 1,000,000 votes each. Whichever way you look at it, it was a close result. A 140,000 majority in a city of 7 or 8 million is not a high percentage at all.
This brings us to the third candidate, Brian Paddick, the Liberal-Democrat contender, and previously an ‘out’ gay policeman. He was also a very capable candidate, but due to the nature of our voting system, was never going to stand a chance of being elected London Mayor. He got many second preference votes, including my own.
In fact, nationally in the local council elections, the Liberal-Democrats got a higher percentage of the vote than Labour, which means the Lib-Dems should have got more councillors elected. This wasn’t the case, due to our unfair voting system.
Ken can now have a well deserved rest from office as Mayor, but let’s hope all at City Hall can work together in the interests of this great city which is now the host for the next Olympic Games. Boris Johnson must be given the support he needs to carry out his new responsibilities as,Â like it or not, heÂ has now been elected Mayor of London for the next four years.
Will he go ahead with his crazy plan to phase out bendy-buses and bring back a new version of the Routemaster with conductors? We’ll have to wait and see. I can’t see this is practical myself, except possibly as a gimmicky tourist attraction on the two Central London routes which still operate some of these buses – purely for tourists. In this age of Freedom Passes, free travel for under 18s and Oyster cards/Travel cards, conductors would have little to do on buses. Inspectors could more efficiently do the job of making sure everybody on bendy-buses and other forms of public transport have valid tickets for their journeys.
I think a few years in office as Mayor of London could be the making, or breaking, of Boris Johnson. He has the maverick qualities which might surprise us all, and make him a good Mayor for the city leading up to the 2012 Olympics.