Gordon Brown, 2000: “Some people might think Ken Livingstone is funny, but saddling London with him for four years is no laughing matter”
The 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More worrying have been the unsupported assertions based on little more than the outdated 1980s belief that all Tories are evil – my parents are Tories, and I can assure you that they are not.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