Democracy in action

If you live in London you probably received a little booklet through your letterbox this week, outlining all the candidates for the London Mayoral election and what they stand for. If you don’t live in London you should probably look away now, because this post is going to bore the shite out of you.

It’s not news that I loathe and despise Boris Johnson. But even his manifesto surprised me. How are people being taken in by this? It’s woollier than a field of sheep. "Increase police numbers"? By how many? "More uniformed officers on transport"? Again, how many? "Build homes"? How many? Livingstone and Sian Berry give numbers and targets in their blurb (I’m afraid to say that Brian Paddick is just as fluffy as the Tories) but Boris Johnson is just… meh. "I have the ideas to [make London safer, protect green spaces and get value for money]" he says. What ideas? Bringing back the Routemasters? (I’ll let Diamond Geezer tell you about the problems with that.) Picking on kids who cause trouble on buses? That’s just pandering… I’m sorry, but it’s not just teenagers who are annoying little shitbags on public transport. The last people I saw playing crappy music out of a tinpot phone was a guy in his 20s and a little kid of about four, with his mum; the last group of teenagers who were noisy on a train didn’t need the aid of phones, they were just singing themselves (what, we’re going to penalise people for being exhuberant now?); and if the job of conductors is mainly to confront belligerent kids, I can’t see people rushing to sign up, can you? But that seems to be the cornerstone of his campaign – he’s saying to the middle classes in the suburbs, ‘look, I’m just like you. I know you feel threatened by anything that’s different. So I’ll pretend I can do something about it just so you’ll vote for me.’

And it could be working. Jeeesus. If I wake up on Friday morning and Boris Johnson is Mayor of London, I’ll be tempted to walk out of the city and leave it to the morons who voted for him. Is this really all we’re capable of, one of the greatest cities in the world? We’re really going to be taken in by some celebrity japester? This is the contempt the Conservatives hold us in. They tried to give us Steven Norris for the last two elections, a man whose opinion of public transport was that it was used by the "great unwashed", and now they want to give us a man with absolutely no record of running anything bigger than the Spectator office (something he actually mentioned in a debate with Livingstone, a man who has run various London councils since the dawn of time, and Brian Paddick, who has run policing across London. The twat is so clueless he thought a tiny private organisation bested vast public ones. But of course he did. He’s a Tory. So private always wins over public. Slightly concerning in someone running for public office).

But hey, he’s loveable, right? Someone I know plans to vote for Johnson "because she likes him". She was a bit floored when I pointed out his history of racist and sexist comments. She’s only seen his blustering performances on Have I Got News For You. She wasn’t thinking about who would be best to get Crossrail through. She wasn’t thinking about the congestion charge, or the bus system. Maybe Voltaire was wrong; maybe we should only defend to the death people’s right to say what they like only if they can provide detailed, reasoned arguments to support their thinking. Shrugging and mumbling "yeah, but he’s a laugh" Does. Not. Count.

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3 responses to “Democracy in action

  1. Nick April 28, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Ken might be saved by the fact that the second preference system works well for an incumbent. Everyone can can register their annoyance but then let pragmatism taken over on the second vote.
    My biggest worry about this election is just how well the BNP look to do. I don’t think it will be hard for them to get 5%. And that is not going to be a nice advertisement for our city.

  2. Rachel April 28, 2008 at 9:49 am

    That’s a good point… and a bad advertisement for this voting preference system, which I otherwise quite like. I think of it as first preference is your actual conscience voting, second preference is your practical choice. So if the BNP register a relatively high number of first preferences… *shudder*

  3. Nick April 28, 2008 at 10:06 am

    In 2004 the BNP got 58,405 1st preferences and 70,736 2nd’s.
    Add to that the London bombings, more visible Islamic extremism, the outer London boroughs with a huge amount of poverty and no Inner City grants or status generally doing as badly as ever and I think they will certainly do better than that. Plus of course 2/3s of Londoners didn’t vote so they have low turnout in their favour to.
    All quite depressing really.

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