I live in a city of idiots

I’d like to claim to be a week late to this party because of the sheer amount of my incandescent rage, but in reality I’ve just been busy. You know. But there was a certain amount of incandescent rage.

The Tories are on the march again, it seems – or, at least, they are in the suburbs, where ‘our’ Mayor of London seems to be most in favour. (The last week has seen some commentators cast Ken Livingstone as the Mayor of zones 1-3, and Boris Johnson as the Mayor of zones 4-D. Which makes you wonder what will happen to the Congestion Zone. Anyway.)

It’s bad enough that we’ve elected an over-privileged toff (and yes, it’s still "we", no matter how you personally voted) in a result reminscent of when we used to tug our forelocks in awe of the aristocracy, and an over-privileged toff with hardly any discernable policies (more later). But what’s even more depressing is looking at how the votes panned out. I foolishly believed the second-preference system would work in Livingstone’s favour, but it seems I overestimated the intelligence of my fellow electors. In the run-up to the election, I heard enough explanations of how the system worked on the news and in the papers and on the radio to make my ears bleed, but let’s take a closer look at those results, shall we?

Lib Dems – second preference votes 641,412, first preference 236,685. UKIP – second preference votes 113,651, first preference 22,422. Green – second preference votes 331,727, first preference 77,374. More people put Sian Berry as a second preference than Livingstone or Johnson. Paddick got double the number of second preferences as Labour or Conservative. What was the point in that? Did those people realise that second preference vote was two pencil strokes wasted? Did they realise how little chance that second preference vote had of ever mattering? I’d love to see a breakdown of who those second preferences came from. Were they Livingstone or Johnson voters, filling in space for the sake of it? Were they people staying away from the two-horse race entirely? Voting can feel like a totally pointless activity at the best of times, but it’s nice to feel like your cross makes a difference somewhere, especially in something as important as this. I can’t image those people who second preferenced Paddick or Berry are particularly pleased with the way the result went. Now, I can fully believe that there are some liberal minded people out there who deliberately voted with their consciences, and may well have voted Green first and Lib Dem second (or vice versa). But my familiarity with human nature tells me there aren’t 641,412 of them. I suspect 600,000 just didn’t quite understand what they were doing.

I hate people sometimes.

So, we have a Tory Mayor. Probably the opening act for a Tory government. As someone who grew up in the urban north under Thatcher, I’m not looking forward to the next four years. My one hope is that Cameron keeps Johnson on a tight lead, knowing that if he cocks up London it’ll reflect badly on the Tory re-election campaign. He’ll make sure City Hall is run properly, on budget, with nothing stupid going on…

…so we get a ban on alcohol on the tube.

Except it’s not really a ban, because the byelaw won’t come into effect for about another year. What’s happening on 1 June is a change to the conditions of carriage – I’ve been through the document (fascinating) and there is a section where it gives a short list of things that are banned (flash photography, skating) that could result in prosecution, but it’s not exactly the same list as the byelaws. It’s not clear anywhere what will happen if you drink alcohol. The Guardian reckons you’ll just be asked to leave the train… woo, scary. It’s very confusing, especially when there’s already a byelaw dealing with the "possession of intoxicating liquor". But then, there’s also a byelaw saying you have to wait until everyone’s got off before boarding the train, so if I’m going to be prosecuted for carrying an open can of Fosters I’d want to see every twat who barges their way onto the train during rush hour also feel the heavy hand of The Law.

Incidentally, I’ve never drunk booze on the tube before, but I’m feeling a definite urge to do so now. Circle Line party 1 June, anyone?

And let’s not forget the poor bastards who work on the tube and who’ll have to enforce this "ban" since it’s so damn high-profile. The tube driver who’ll have to pull up every couple of stops to do a walk through the carriages for a spot-check (not that anyone would notice on the Northern Line). Oh, but that’s hardly going to work, is it? Then who, dear Boris, will enforce this ban? The non-existent LU staff on the platforms?  The invisible British Transport Police? Who, exactly, do you plan to have confronting a drunk guy with a bottle of Magners at 1am and politely ask him to step off the train, please, sir, as that’s the worst we can do to you? I know you can hardly expect the Unions to agree with a Tory, but this is the first time in a long while that I’ve agreed with Bob Crow.


10 responses to “I live in a city of idiots

  1. Anonymous May 12, 2008 at 10:02 am

    (Extraordinarily pedantic note: Zones A – D no longer exist, having been replaced by Zones 7 – 9. However those Zones are actually outside of London, so the voters can only have come from areas up to Zone 6).
    The Single Transferable Vote is an odd system as it in theory is really quite good, except for the fact that the theory relies on rational voting patterns, which are unlikely. I think as time goes on people will get a better idea of how it works though.
    As bad as it is having Johnson as Mayor, I do think that, as he himself said, Livingstone has only himself to blame. There was a lot more going on than just an anti-Labour vote. Misappropriation of public funds, funding fringe religious groups, grandiose foreign policy visions (like the offices abroad he had) and general arrogance and sheer contempt for anyone who might of wanted to hold him in any way accountable.

  2. Rachel May 12, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Memo to self: find a way to make names compulsory.
    Anyway. I don’t think Livingstone is as bad as the last para says – he’s not perfect, but Andrew Gilligan’s smear campaign built a lot of it up out of proportion. Johnson also had a couple of dodgy dealings and possible conflicts of interest, but they merited a couple of lines buried on page 56. What I do blame Livingstone for, is for not taking the fight to the Tories. He seems to have believed he would win whatever, when in reality he could ripped Johnson apart piece by tiny piece, and refuted or explained everything being thrown at him. It’s partly his own damn fault that we (WE) have to deal with this tosspot, because of his own bizarre belief in his own infallibility. So I agree with your final clause, Anon (probably Nick).

  3. Nick May 12, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Yes me that was me sorry!
    Though I have to strongly disagree with your assertion that it was just the smear campaign that saw his downfall, and that it was things being blown out of proportion. I personally didn’t read single Gilligan piece.
    Ken has been pissing people off left right and centre for years, especially those who would have once voted for him. In office he was incredibly sectarian and divisive.
    This for me is a good example of why I am glad to see the back of him:
    If there is one good thing that will come out of Johnson being in power is that all those little far-left Trot cliques and extreme religious groups will suddenly find themselves without an ear or funding.

  4. Tom May 12, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    As one of those idiots, I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said here. One of the few things more depressing than Boris winning, however, is that 8,000 people in Lewisham and Greenwich voted for the National Front (and then another 11,000 or so in nearby Bexley and Bromley did the same).
    Given Boris’s track record when it comes to “watermelon smiles” and “piccaninnies”, I can’t see him helping much when it comes to a city in which tens of thousands of people will vote for a party that wants Britain to “remain a white country”. What a disaster.

  5. Rachel May 12, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    I didn’t read a single Gilligan piece either; I did, however, read follow-up articles in other newspapers and walk past dozens of Evening Standard billboards talking about Ken’s various “shames”. Livingstone may indeed have needed to go – but in his place it should have been someone with sense, someone like Paddick or Berry, when in reality every nail in Livingstone’s coffin would only ever benefit Boris Johnson.
    Tom – a post on the even more depressing far right action coming up. Eventually. Though Nick would probably do a better job at demolishing everyone who voted NF / BNP than I ever could.

  6. Will May 12, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Not sure I get your logic with regards to 1st and 2nd preference votes. 893,877 people voted Ken as 1st choice, so I’d expect a similar number to vote Libdem or Green with their second.
    1,043,761 voted 1st for Boris, and I wouldn’t expect any of them to give their 2nd to Ken.
    So with a turnout of 2,456,990, about 2m wouldn’t/couldn’t give Ken their 2nd vote. And he got 303,198, which is fair enough.

  7. Pete May 12, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    The London mayoral election system uses a “supplementary vote” and definitely not single transferable vote (as mentioned in the comments only).
    Second choice votes are only used as tie breaks between the two leading first choice candidates if neither of them has a majority, and second choice votes for all other candidates are all discarded.
    Single Transferable Vote encourages voting for minority candidates that won’t necessarily get in, as you can always put your “pragmatic” choice second and it will still be counted if your first is knocked out. In the mayoral elections the opposite is true – it’s simply not safe to waste a first choice that could contribute to the final outcome as your second choice will only be used as a tiebreak.
    From a voter’s point of view, marking a “safe” second choice did make some sense in these elections as a safeguard against tampering – it would stop someone unscrupulous adding a second choice of their own to your paper if your first choice turns out not to be one of the two front runners. If you were dead set against Ken and Boris and you wanted to vote for Paddick, then marking Berry as second would have made sure a Tory with an HB pencil didn’t steal your useless vote.

  8. Nick May 12, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Ah cheers for the correction Pete.
    (I actually spent a year having to study voting systems. Shows how much I enjoyed that particular part of the course!)

  9. Rachel May 12, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Will – this is why I want to see a breakdown, ease my number-fuddled brain.
    Pete – ahhh, yes, I wasn’t thinking sneakily enough to consider vote tampering.

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