Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Mayor Boris, eh?

Gordon Brown, 2000: “Some people might think Ken Livingstone is funny, but saddling London with him for four years is no laughing matter”

Boris JohnsonThe same has repeatedly been said about the man Johnson over the last four weeks along with a number of wild allegations based largely on out of context quotation – much the same as the whole “Ken’s an anti-Semite” nonsense.

More worrying have been the unsupported assertions based on little more than the outdated 1980s belief that all Tories are evil – my parents are Tories, and I can assure you that they are not. More to the point, people were voting in the mayoral elections who weren’t even born when Thatcher was in power. Using her as the all-conquering bogeyman simply isn’t a viable electoral strategy any more. (It’s a bit pathetic it ever was, if you think about it – after all, it was the Tories, not Labour, who got rid of her…)

Ken did a halfway decent job over the last eight years , along with a bunch of very impressive achievements. I have little reason to believe that Boris can’t do similarly – and no reason to think he’ll be a disaster. His acceptance speech certainly started on the right bipartisan (even tripartisan) note, and he’s blatantly not a typical Tory no matter the colour of his rosette, educational history and accent. I’m hopeful.

Furthermore, anyone who thinks that Boris and Boris alone will be calling the shots in London simply doesn’t get how politics works. Or how the Mayor’s office works, for that matter – it simply doesn’t have as much power as everyone seems to think. Ken was just very good at giving the impression that all the successes were thanks to him and him alone.

All this hyperbole being spewed about Johnson from normally sensible left-wing sources* – not to mention the dismissal of over a million Londoners who picked him as their first choice as merely “doing it for a laugh” – is doing the British left no good at all.

Boris Johnson is not some monster – by painting him as such when he blatantly is not is going to rub off badly on you, not him. Just as it rubbed off on Labour badly when they tried the same trick with Ken back in 2000. (That certainly helped push me towards voting for the guy…)

If the left/Labour can’t get over the snide remarks, personal attacks and class prejudice that seems to imbue every aspect of their relationship with the Conservative Party – and, ideally, come up with some practical left-wing policies rather than populist and ill-considered appeals to the middle-classes and big business – they are going to continue to slide in the polls to the point of embarrassing defeat.

And serve them right. (Labour promising cuts to corporation tax while the Tories run to the defence of impoverished single mothers? Come on, guys…). The worry is the knock-on effect – not just driving people who care to the extremes of right and left, but meaning that the Tories don’t have to fight for power.

Boris had to fight, and fight hard – because Ken was a formidable and principled oponent. He’s not going to forget that in a hurry; he’s going to be fully aware that a sizable chunk of the capital don’t like him and that a sizable chunk of the country want him to fail. And it’s going to make him work even harder.

But the way the rest of the Labour party is going, the next election is going to be handed to the Tories on a plate. They won’t even need to bother knocking on doors at this rate. And power gained that easily is never going to engender respect – either from politicians or public. Labour have had a free run for most of the last decade or more, and just look what happened to them

* I won’t link to any specifics as I hope they’ll see how silly they’re being soon, but have a gander at some of the tripe the Guardian’s been spewing over the last few days for an idea of the tone and content


  1. Quite right Nosemonkey. I’ve been amazed at how Ken Livingstone (of all people!) appears to have become some kind of hero for some over the past few days.

    I wouldn’t mind so much if people had any decent arguments against the idea that Boris Johnson should be in power, but you are right — they all basically amount to “he’s a toff”, or “he’s a Tory”. That just doesn’t cut it any more. I can easily say that Ken Livingstone shouldn’t be voted in because he’s Labour and therefore has the blood of however many dead Iraqis on his hand, is responsible for ID cards, etc etc. It would be ridiculous, but it’s just as valid as the complaints about Johnson invoking Thatcher or whatever.

    It kind of sums up for me why this country is heading down the path it is. Because no matter how bad Labour get, there are thousands of mindless sheep on the left who will say, “Well at least they aren’t the Tories.” But that is nonsense. The Conservatives would never have been allowed to get away with what Labour have got away with. That alone is a reason to vote Labour out.

    And the idea that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are somehow more common than your average Tory is of course nonsense. Vote Tory get a posh toff, vote Labour get a posh toff. And so what anyway?

    Not that I am much of a fan of Boris Johnson (and I’m certainly not a “lolboris what a legernd” type person, which seems to be some people’s explanation of Boris Johnson’s victory). But the point is that Labour don’t have a divine right to power. We discovered this in Scotland last year, and if you asked me I would never have believed that Scots would have accepted it better than people in the south east of England. But it’s true. The SNP might not be Tories, but they are still morons. But the country hasn’t imploded, and it’s certainly a lot better than the prospect of a third Labour Executive. Whatever the merits of Ken Livingstone, it’s clear that the rot always sets in during the third term anyway if it didn’t during the second.

    My point is that people should wait and see whether Boris Johnson is actually good or not before throwing up their arms and shrieking. It might not be all that bad (although I’m sure the same old Labour sheep will contrive enough reasons why it is all that bad soon enough).

  2. Hurrah, some sensible analysis of the election and one that roughly mirrors my own.

    Nosemonkey for Mayor next time around…

  3. Mayor, eh? I could do that… Would end up like the decidedly odd Winston McKenzie, though – because I wouldn’t want to associate myself with ANY of the parties on offer…

    The thing that gets me is that all the anti-Boris lot are making precisely the same mistake as the pro-EU constitution buggers after the French and Dutch no votes – “how could they be so stupid? They evidently don’t know what they’re doing”, etc. etc. It comes across as elitist, patronising and silly.

    Lesson for Labour: if you want people to vote for you, don’t insult their intelligence. (Which is precisely what Ken kept on doing even on policy issues when claiming tube and bus fares have gone down when it was £1.10 for a single ten years ago, and a minimum of £2.00 now – £4.00 if without an Oyster card. I’m no economist, but even I can tell that’s significantly above the rate of inflation for little in the way of obvious improvement…)

    The problem is not that the electorate are stupid, it’s that Ken and Labour failed to set out any positive reasons for giving them another term at precisely the time – with economic jitters and the like – that everyone needs something positive to vote for. Because of that, all Boris and the Tories had to do was suggest a vague fresh direction, a sense of change after the last couple of years in which Ken has appeared to have stagnated, and that’s good enough.

    (It probably also didn’t help buggering up Bank and Monument tube stations with little warning just a few weeks before the polls…)

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  5. If the left/Labour can’t get over the snide remarks, personal attacks and class prejudice that seems to imbue every aspect of their relationship with the Conservative Party

    I tell you what, I will if they will. You obviously haven’t been swimming in some of the Tory cesspits I have in the last few months.

  6. I’d have more faith if Boris had presented anything in the way of a transport policy beyond, ‘Bendy buses, boooo!’

    Not to mention his apparently missing the housing shortage altogether.

    I’ve just seen no evidence he understands either of these key issues – and worse, that he doesn’t care that he doesn’t understand.

  7. Where’d you get the lack of housing policy from? Admittedly it’s not too detailed (that I’ve noticed), but he’s on record saying he wants to build 50,000 new homes – something he repeated at his press conference this afternoon.

    In terms of transport policy, he’s mostly focussed on beefing up the transport police and scrapping bendy busses (both of which I can happily get behind), rather than anything specific on the tube and trains, it’s true. But then Ken’s hardly had too much joy on the tube/trains front, despite all his efforts – largely because the Mayor simply doesn’t have as much say in their running as a lot of people would like. Not making wild promises about what he’s going to deliver before finding out what the situation is strikes me as sensible – not least because it’s quite apparent that Ken hasn’t had much idea of what he was going to be able to achieve with the tube and trains during his time in office. I imagine we’ll see a lot of continuity.

    As for the “he doesn’t care that he doesn’t understand” thing – if that’s your take, fine (though damning people based on you not having seen them do something strikes me as, well, rather unfair). But I still prefer your version of Boris to Ken Livingstone’s wilfully belligerent “if people don’t like it they can fuck off” attitude that I’ve seen repeatedly over the last eight years whenever he’s done something unpopular with a part of society he thinks he can get away with offending.

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  9. Bors Yeltston ?

  10. As a person whose expressed concerns based on class and the Tories, I think you’re oversimplifying by refering to these matters as simple class prejudice.

    I am worried that the people who make up the government of my country seem to be in danger of becoming even less diverse as a result of Labour’s electoral demise (a demise which I think is well-deserved, by the way, despite being a Labour supporter).

    It’s not prejudice to have concerns that our educational and political systems put disporportionate numbers of people from one cadre in charge again and again and again, and to want to change that. It’s progressive.

  11. Sue, while agreeing that it would be lovely if there were more people who weren’t from white, male middle-class and (frequently) privately-educated backgrounds rising through the party ranks, there aren’t – and there likely won’t be for some years to come. Because to get to a position where a party is prepared to put you up for high office you generally need either to have worked tirelessly for them for years, or to have a ready-made public profile – and very few people from non-traditional political backgrounds have either at the moment. It’s that simple.

    Indeed, at the risk of sounding like a chauvinist, take a look at the leading female MPs (to take the easiest and most obvious example of an under-represented group) from the three major parties – Hazel Blears, Harriet Harman, Caroline Spellman, Sarah Teather, Ruth Kelly, Jacqui Smith, Theresa May, Tessa Jowell, etc. etc. etc. – not only are they also more or less middle class (even when originally from working class backgrounds), it’s also very hard to look at that bunch of more or less useless politicians and not think that they’ve got there by dint of their sex, not their talent or hard work.

    That Barbara Castles and Maggie Thatchers remain the exception nearly ninety years after Nancy Astor first entered the House is pretty shocking and highly depressing, but what the fix is I have no idea. (The problem of getting parliament to more accurately reflect the makeup of the country as a whole is also likely to only get worse now the power of the unions has waned, giving fewer people of working class backgrounds the opportunity of their traditional route into politics.) But still, voting against the Tories when they’re the only party to have given us a female Prime Minister , a gay Prime Minister (albeit a publicly closeted one) and a non-Anglo-Saxon Prime Minister seems a tad odd.

    It’s going to take a major cultural change – both top-down and bottom-up – to give alternate routes into politics, and would probably take a generation to have any effect even if those changes had already started to happen (which as far as I can see they haven’t – the parties all instead focussing on all-female shortlists and quotas, artificially rather than organically encouraging active participation).

    But still – this is a vast, vast issue, and not one to go into here (I did make a start over a year ago, but forgot to go back to it). Perhaps something to which I should return another day.

    (I also worry about the progressive tag, for reasons excellently set out (not by me) here.)

  12. And voting for the Tories because they had a woman PM would be (a) sexist and (b) pretty non-sensical when their inclusion of women in general is so poor.

  13. Sue – erm… Yes indeed. My point was that all parties are equally bad because the system itself is bad, so to lay in to the Tories in particular is a bit unfair, is all.

  14. I’m a bit less inclined to blame the system. Both Tories and Labour have a democratic process, however imperfect. David Cameron wasn’t foisted on the Conservative Party any more than Gordon Brown was forced onto the Labour Party. Local party members still have input into selection and if they don’t like the choices they are given everyone has the option of withdrawing their blessing from the process itself.

    Plus, I could understand an argument based on entrenched interests if things were bad and not getting better or getting better but very slowly. The fact is, things are getting worse. The number of people in the Cabinet and its shadow from outside the upper and upper-middle classes is shrinking. I don’t think it’s necessary to be a class warrior to find this worrying.

  15. “things are getting worse. The number of people in the Cabinet and its shadow from outside the upper and upper-middle classes is shrinking” – yep. Largely thanks to the decline of the Unions from the 60s/70s onwards, I’d say. People now of an age to become senior politicians from working class backgrounds have had less opportunity to get involved in politics via the traditional working class route. It’s now all about gladhanding the party bigwigs, not getting popular support from a union.

    “Local party members still have input” – but who are those local party members? What’s their background? As a broad generalisation, people from ethnic minorities, the working classes and women are less likely to join a party and become actively involved in politics than white male middle class types.

    Both of these, I’d say, are systemic problems.

  16. Sensible commentary from Nosemonkey

    Let’s wait and see what Boris the Mayor (as opposed to Boris the Buffoon) comes up with before condemning him out of hand, purely on his (media shaped) background.

    I’m from Manchester so I really have no direct interest in London’s affairs but as someone who has always advocated dispersal of effective UK political power in the form of Regional Government, it will be interesting to see how Boris balances his new role as leader of the only accountable tier of Regional governance within England, against his party’s avowed intention to demolish any semblance of Regional governance elsewhere in England, should they ever gain access to Downing Street.

    London works precisely due to its economies of scale – it’s big enough to sustain itself as a stand alone entity – am I the only person to detect a growing sense of self confidence and mutual interdependence amongst Londoners, starkly contrasting with increasing levels of bitterness and recrimination across the rest of England?

    I would like to see Greater London develop into a full blown Regional bloc, with its elected Assembly assuming competency over many more areas of meaningful policy; Healthcare, Education, Law & Order for starters to add to the still relatively weak current portfolio presented by Transport, Economic Development, Environmental Policy, Housing, Culture, Sport & Tourism.

    Boris (and his successors) for First Minister of London?

  17. Could the decline in the number of non uppper middle class politicians also be connected to the cult of youth?

    If we expect our leaders to be in the cabinet / shadow cabinet before the age of 35/40, that automatically excludes a huge swathe of possibilities. Only someone who is confident of their financial future can make the investment necessary to get into parliament at a young age. The rest of us need to work hard, buy a house, save some cash, get our kids through school, before we could take the risk.

  18. I like the points you point out Nosemonkey. I only wish it were true but knowing the game like I do, we will only ever have these people playing a game “” and running there side shows for publics approval thus leading us away from what really needs to be done for the UK/World.

    Don’t get me wrong I believe in Democracy, I don’t believe in any of the MPs ! The ones I have met are all the same “playing the game” and thats all party’s!

    We are mushrooms, kept in the dark and fed on shite. You may think I’m mad or wrong but the world I’ve come to know is run by Corporate and the Governments are its puppets. All for each other and all for sale.

    If you have time Id really like you to tell me how wrong I am here and that its not just about the Dollar and spinning out there stay in office.