Today I received confirmation of my postal vote registration in the mail, and it momentarily made me wish I hadn’t left Surrey to come here, but had instead left London to come here.
One of the less hazardous ideas from America that the Blair Presidency sold to the British public was the establishment of a directly elected Mayor for London. At the inaugural election in 2000, I voted for Ken Livingstone without hesitation for three reasons. Firstly, the election of Livingstone would flip the bird to both Thatcher and Blair simultaneously; an opportunity not to be missed. Secondly, when I’d seen Livingstone speak at some consultation events while he was MP for Brent East, I was impressed by his encyclopedic knowledge of all things London when fielding random questions from the public, about anything from the funding of parish LGBT groups to the material used to cover train seats. Finally, the Congestion Charge struck me as a really good idea.
Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London 2000-2008
My vote was also one of those that got Livingstone re-elected in 2004, largely because he had actually delivered the Congestion Charge, the unlikelihood of which was my one reservation in 2000. Contrary to the contorted diatribes that would have you believe that the slightest constraint on one person’s activities is an outrageous breach of everybody’s human rights, it was a success both in terms of its implementation and the achievement of its goals. The project was a huge logistical and technical nightmare, and it required a changeover implementation. Basically it was exactly the kind of publicly-funded endeavour that might go several times over budget before being abandoned, years after it was supposed to be completed. There have, after all, been plenty of those before and since. Yes, there were issues that can yield alarming facts and figures when taken out of context, but it happened, it worked, and it has inspired other cities around the world to plan similar schemes. Ken has to take some of the credit for that.
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London 2008-2012
I had moved out of London by 2008, but I must confess that I would have switched my allegiance to Boris Johnson had I been eligible to vote. I had by this time become disillusioned with some of the appointments Ken had made, and his dealings with Hugo Chavez seemed wholly unnecessary. While Boris always gave the impression of having just sustained a mild concussion in a pillow fight, he usually said enough to convince me that this was merely a whimsical cover for some kind of benevolent genius. Since then, however, I’ve come to realise that he should be taken at face value after all, as an over-privileged buffoon with questionable values.
What about the Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick? Is there a word for when the answer to a question is just the question repeated with different intonation? There should be. The Liberal Democrats know that the Mayoral election is essentially a two horse race, which is probably why they gave the gig to Brian Paddick in the first place.
Sir Ian Bowler
No, if you can vote in this election (postally or otherwise) but you can’t bring yourself to support either Ken or Boris, perhaps you should consider wasting your vote on Sir Ian Bowler. For a £10 pledge towards his deposit, he will include anything you like in his manifesto, and it doesn’t even have to be within reason. I think the biggest vote winner so far is ‘Tourists to be banned from central London at peak times and weekends’, although my personal favourite remains ‘All microwaves should play the theme from Tales Of The Unexpected as the food rotates’. You don’t get candidates like Sir Ian Bowler running for Surrey County Council, that’s for sure.