Monday, May 05, 2008

Congratulations Boris...

The winds of changed whistled through London this weekend, as 'Red' Ken Livingstone was booted out of office as Mayor of London and replaced by scruffy, but lovable Conservative Boris Johnson.

Johnson is a bit of a political enigma. His eccentric demenor and popular appearences on television shows like Have I Got News For You have won him a broad base of popular support across all demographics, while confirmed Conservatives still consider his weekly columns in The Telegraph required reading.

That's not to say he's not without detractors - even amongst those who share his political positions. Telegraph journalist Simon Heffer criticizes Johnson for his delight in "the charm of doing nothing properly."

However, maybe that's no bad thing. In contrast, Ken Livingstone's leadership style was nothing less than egomaniacal.

There were few election promises 'Red Ken' didn't break - like scrapping the popular Routemaster buses (after promising the voters "only a de-humanised moron would get rid of the Routemaster") and more than doubling cash-fare on buses even after a pre-election promise to freeze them for four years.

His most scandalous invention was the Congestion Charge, which has reduced traffic (and business revenue) in central London by as much as 20%, yet fails to provide the cash for public transport he promised (despite providing operating company Capita enormous profits.)

Ken Livingstone is an 'old school' Labour politician. Opinionated, egotistic and utterly without accountability. The positive things he's managed to achieve have often been overshadowed by petty displays of his fiery temper (such as accusing reporter Oliver Finegold of acting like a 'concentration camp guard') and accusations of cronyism (recruiting six friends to over-paid positions in the mayor's office, plus diverting £2.5 million into shady grants linked to his advisor Lee Jasper.)

Which is a pity. Because Livingstone clearly loves London and has dominated politics in the city for nearly thirty years. He was teary when he conceeded defeat and Boris Johnson was very classy in addressing the former major:

"For you, Ken, Mayor Livingstone, I think you have been a very considerable public servant and a distinguished leader of this city. When we both have that drink together that we so richly deserve, I hope we can discover a way in which the mayoralty can continue to benefit from your transparent love of London."

He then addressed the beginning of a new era for London, announcing:

"We have a new team ready to go to City Hall. Where there are mistakes we will rectify them, where there are achievements we will build on them, where there are neglected opportunities we will seize on them and we will focus on the priorities of the people of London."

Before finally ending his victory speech with refreshing honesty:

"Let's get cracking tomorrow - and let's have a drink tonight."

1 comment:

BritGal' Sarah said...

I think he'll be a refreshing change, as he's always been his own man