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Boris Johnson for mayor?
April 20, 2008 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Stop Boris Johnson?

Boris Johnson is the Conservative candidate for the Mayor of London this May, running against Ken Livingstone. The public generally know him for his apparently likeable bumbling persona, for example on Have I Got News For You, but there is another side ...
posted by bwerdmuller (58 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Boris is hardly the ideal candidate for Mayor, but some of the Guardian's po-faced Pooterish attacks on him are laughable. They haul out the 'flag-waving piccaninnies with watermelon smiles' stuff to paint him as a racist, but if you actually read it in the context of the original article, you see he's nothing of the sort.

They say [Blair] is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.

Quite possibly the most clearly, obviously sarcastic paragraph ever committed from pen to paper, and yet the Guardian disingenuously takes it literally.
posted by matthewr at 8:39 AM on April 20, 2008


Just read the Calvin Trillin piece in the New Yorker about Livingstone and Johnson, and Trillin reports that the Mayor of London should really just be called "transit commissioner", because that's all the mayor has control over.

Johnson seems like a more pleasant sort of person than Livingstone, who obviously is a terrorist.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:46 AM on April 20, 2008


A few more links.

Anatole Kaletsky:
Yet this conventional wisdom is completely wrong. Mr Johnson and Mr Livingstone, far from being blundering political innocents, are both politicians of the first rank. Mr Livingstone not only managed to outmanoeuvre and humiliate both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown by becoming the first Mayor of London, but proved himself to be the only British politician of his generation to confront Margaret Thatcher and win in the long run. Mr Johnson cannot, yet, claim any such electoral triumphs, but he has managed to survive verbal gaffes and personal scandals as serious as the ones that ended the career of David Blunkett and a host of Tory Cabinet ministers from the Thatcher years.
A.A. Gill:
The truth is nobody really thought that Boris could win; the Conservatives just didn’t want a repeat of the humiliation they went through with the last Tory candidate, Steven Norris (and don’t even mention Jeffrey Archer). If Boris could acquit himself in a gentlemanly fashion, knock up a reasonable score, draw some blood, that would be enough: there would be tea and biscuits and a junior cabinet post back at Westminster.

The only person who thought Boris had a chance was Livingstone. And now, as the polls show, there’s not much more than a margin of error between them, and everything looks different.

The received wisdom is that Ken will lose the election for himself, and that the best Boris can do in the meantime is to keep his feet out of his mouth. In short, the less he can behave like the Boris everyone loves, the better -- which seems to be an odd strategy. And Boris doesn’t look or sound happy with it.
Simon Jenkins:
The gains to London from an elected mayoralty are hard to disentangle from the performance of the eight years of Livingstone’s incumbency, but they are undeniable. The democratic potency awarded the office secured an astronomical £1 billion subsidy for London’s buses and probably three times that amount for the giant Olympics and Crossrail projects.

In no other British city would a leader have dared to proceed (for better or worse) with the congestion charge. Nor have Labour home secretaries felt strong enough to cap Livingstone’s extra spending on the police, as they have police authorities in other areas. Having won the argument but initially lost the battle against Brown’s privatised Tube, Livingstone has now "localised" it de facto by taking over the failed Metronet consortium.

Like him or loathe him, Livingstone has established the concept of city government as an entity in the American sense, in contrast to the urban cabalism of which he was previously a notorious exponent. London is no longer "town" but city.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:49 AM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Kokoryu, I believe George W Bush was elected in 2000 largely because he was presented as more pleasant and likeable than his opponent. Me, I'd rather have someone who understood what the job entailed and how to do it.

Boris is a big fan of George W Bush, incidentally.
posted by Hogshead at 8:52 AM on April 20, 2008


Stop Boris Johnson?

Yes, please.
posted by grouse at 8:53 AM on April 20, 2008


I can only agree with Charlie Brooker's assessment of Boris. I'd be pretty ashamed to see my home town represented that faux idiot.
posted by little apollo at 8:56 AM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Boris is a big fan of George W Bush, incidentally.

Hmm.

Johnson, November 2004: "[George W. Bush is a] man so serially incompetent that he only narrowly escaped self-assassination by pretzel."

Johnson, November 2007: I want Hillary Clinton to be president (TG), "it is hard to imagine George Bush descanting with such fluency on any international topic. This is a man who believed until recently that the people of Athens are called Grecians."
posted by matthewr at 9:00 AM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can only agree with Charlie Brooker's assessment of everything.
posted by bwerdmuller at 9:04 AM on April 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


I'm not convinced of his political ability, but you've got to admit he's indisputably a comic genius :)
posted by kaemaril at 9:04 AM on April 20, 2008


If Boris wins I fully expect so see the ravens leaving the Tower of London
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:11 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


>If Boris wins I fully expect so see the ravens leaving the Tower of London

Their wings are clipped so they can't fly out and I doubt the Ravenmaster would let them just walk out. Perhaps some kind of tunnel? I can just see a bunch of ravens, spoons grasped in their wings (somehow) and whistling the theme from The Great Escape, as they tunnel by candle-light ...

It'd put Chicken Run to shame.
posted by kaemaril at 9:20 AM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


There's a convenient tunnel already.

And wouldn't the Ravenmaster be in Boris's employ?
posted by cillit bang at 9:24 AM on April 20, 2008


Heh heh, heh heh, heh heh heh. You said "Johnson".
posted by erniepan at 9:26 AM on April 20, 2008


Stop Boris Johnson?

Yes, please.


Quite. A jokes a joke people.
posted by Artw at 9:28 AM on April 20, 2008


Maybe I'm just biased against affable and disconnected Eton conservatives, but it seems to me that Boris Johnson's main selling point has been that he doesn't know what the fuck he's doing or talking about, which makes him cuddly and funny and easy to identify with. And I have to admit, he is a witty guy. But not, you know, a good mayor.

Nowdays he's at least being a bit clearer about some actual policies. Here's the ones I can remember off the top of my head:

- Fewer terrible!! scandals!! rocking the mayoral office. My favourite of these being that Ken Livingstone has had five (legitimate) children by three different women. Boris, however, can't really talk about scandals.

- Bendy buses out, Routemasters back in. Ehhhh.

- More police on patrol, more affordable homes, more cycle routes. Ken says the same thing. *shrug*

- The congestion charge. A lot of people hate it, because they don't like having to pay to pollute and congest. Personally, I think they should have to, especially as it benefits pedestrian/cyclists like me. Livingstone wants to beef it up by increasing the charge for larger/dirtier vehicles to £25 (suits me), Johnson doesn't want to.

- Both candidates offer various other piecemeal improvements to the infrastructure, which all sound good, but more or less balance eachother out in terms of electability.

- Johnson is a classic tory with all that entails. Ken is a red-bellied socialist with all that entails. This puts Ken much closer to my politics. However, I don't think it actually makes too much difference to the business of running the city.

Aaaanyway... I'm voting for Ken, and that's my take, as a Londoner.
posted by Drexen at 9:38 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think if I had a vote, I would probably cast it (reluctantly) for Ken, but there is a certain temptation for to vote Boris just for the sake of irritating po-faced newspaper leader-writers.
posted by matthewr at 9:45 AM on April 20, 2008


Possibly balanced a little by displeasing tory hate-rag newspaper leader writers?
posted by Artw at 9:50 AM on April 20, 2008


There is a certain temptation for to vote Boris just for the sake of irritating po-faced newspaper leader-writers.

I think this is part of what people are worried about, the concept of having Boris in power is pretty amusing to me up until the point that I remember that he's a pretty far right Tory. I don't know how much difference it would make to the running of London, but I really don't like to encourage them.
posted by emperor.seamus at 10:08 AM on April 20, 2008


True; anything that pisses off Simon Heffer can only be good. But all in all, the Torygraph and Spectator columnists do seem to take themselves a bit less seriously, and are therefore not quite as satisfying to irritate.
posted by matthewr at 10:14 AM on April 20, 2008


emperor.seamus 1 matthewr 0

George Bush was pretty funny too, till he got a million or so deaths under his belt. *

*this close to a Godwin!
posted by davemee at 10:21 AM on April 20, 2008


I'm voting for Ken. My first choice is Sian Berry but fear of Boris winning has forced my hand. Shame, because Sian rocked at the Time Out hustings, but them's the breaks.
posted by freya_lamb at 10:24 AM on April 20, 2008



The horrible thing about Boris, is that he has a fairly good idea about what he's doing.

He knows he doesn't have to do anything at all to win this election, apart from wait for the Evening Standard to convince everyone that getting rid of Ken might prevent "the housing crisis".
posted by munchbunch at 10:27 AM on April 20, 2008


Do both, freya, you've got two preferences. Berry 1 Ken 2. Anything other than Ken 2 lets Johnson in. And he is a bigot in muppet's clothing. But the first pref is for what you really want.

The Greens have the best video, too.
posted by imperium at 10:31 AM on April 20, 2008



And wouldn't the Ravenmaster be in Boris's employ


Er. Nope. He doesn't become the Queen's boss, he'd just be the mayor of the city.
posted by Brockles at 10:50 AM on April 20, 2008


Here's a post by Jack Thurston about how the voting system (batch-style alternative vote) works. He's voting Sian Berry 1 Ken 2.
posted by Huw at 10:52 AM on April 20, 2008


Boris rocks, I would totally vote for him if I could. He's very intelligent, and just because he brings a bit of fun to politics is no reason to discount him.

Also, it would be a great pleasure to see one of the last hard left remnants removed from office. This is 2008 after all.
posted by Spacelegoman at 10:56 AM on April 20, 2008


Just because he brings a bit of fun to politics is no reason to discount him.

How about the racism the homophobia and the opposition to minimum wage and the Kyoto protocol?

There are plenty of reasons to discount him. The fact that he "brings a bit of fun" to politics is not a good reason to do otherwise.
posted by emperor.seamus at 11:03 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


(Upon rereading your comment, you might not agree with me on the minimum wage bit, but I stand by my other objections.)
posted by emperor.seamus at 11:04 AM on April 20, 2008


This is fascinating. I wish we had more non-American politicsfilter (not kidding)
posted by empath at 11:09 AM on April 20, 2008


As a frequent visitor, I like Ken and I hope he wins, but I don't think Johnson is the Nazi some depict. an asshole, maybe. a dangerous man, not really, I don't think so.


Boris is a big fan of George W Bush, incidentally.

Tony Blair is a big fan of Bush, too. Anyway I somehow doubt Boris -- who's not running for PM, yet at least -- would attack and invade Coventry, so who cares?
posted by matteo at 11:11 AM on April 20, 2008


I can only agree with Charlie Brooker's assessment of everything.

Indeed. Or is that what you meant?

Anyway, yes, Boris. His appearance on the Newsnight debate was the most appalling display of political incompetence I've ever seen. It managed to turn him, for me, from someone not to be supported to someone to be stopped, if at all possible.

I'm surprised that I'm offended by people who deliberately want to elect him because they're curious to find out what happens. I thought I was more cynical than that.

London is my home. I really don't want it to get broken.
posted by Grangousier at 11:13 AM on April 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


And if even he did, an invasion would probably do Coventry good.
posted by matthewr at 11:13 AM on April 20, 2008


I don't think there is very much difference in policy between the candidates.

I don't think gaffes matter except to journalists looking for a quick headline.

I'll be voting for Ken Livingstone based on competence and experience. He's improved public transport: in particular the North London line which I use is vastly better since TFL took over, and I like the bendy buses since you can actually get off them at rush hour. I think the congestion charge has also been a success, showing a degree of competence that's almost unheard of in British politics. No one else seems capable of bringing a large innovative project in successfully on time and on budget.

Boris Johnson isn't as dumb as he pretends to be. But he's not really the old-school Tory he pretends to be either: as least that kind of chap would have had some experience running something significant, in the 19th/45th East African Rifles or colonial administration or a business or somewhere.

Johnson seems to me very much part of our political/media elite. And while they're very good at appearing on telly, as soon as they're confronted with obscure, terrifying novelties like budgets and contracts and reports and negotations and hiring they tend to collapse into a heap of incompetence, never having had to deal with such things before.

Yes, he edited the Spectator magazine (circulation 70,000) but even there he appears to have worked under a chief executive.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:13 AM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


it would be a great pleasure to see one of the last hard left remnants removed from office.

Although Ken employs a lot of people who used to be actual communists, but , and I might be wrong here, I don't think there is anything particularly "hard left" about his policies of more police officers, more housing, better busses or cross-rail?
posted by munchbunch at 11:19 AM on April 20, 2008


Oh wow, I think I'm going to be humming that Charlie Brooker song for... well for ever I think.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:30 AM on April 20, 2008


Bendy buses out

Wait, people are bitching about articulated buses because they're "unsafe?" That's just about all we have on our high-capacity routes. I don't recall any of the incidents that Londoners are bitching about happening in Seattle. Bikers are just used to the buses, I guess.
posted by dw at 11:43 AM on April 20, 2008


The fascinating story behind that "Have I Got News For You" video is here.
posted by empath at 11:48 AM on April 20, 2008


I'm not convinced of his political ability, but you've got to admit he's indisputably a comic genius :)

Seriously. And wait until you see what a joke Ken makes of hosting the Olympics!
posted by three blind mice at 12:06 PM on April 20, 2008


AT east he's not George Galloway.
posted by Artw at 12:08 PM on April 20, 2008


people are bitching about articulated buses because they're "unsafe?"

It's better than that. People who ride double decker buses, where you have to go down stairs while the bus is stopping and going or turning, are complaining about bendy buses being unsafe. Never mind the upper deck of the bus being filled with smoke, tinny cell phone music and half empty beer cans.
posted by srboisvert at 12:19 PM on April 20, 2008


Not only would Boris not be the boss of the Ravenmaster at the Tower, the Tower is in the City which is probably about the most autonomous parts of Greater London, and if I recall correctly, the Mayor of London doesn't have very much say over the Lord Mayor of the City of London.
posted by chimaera at 12:37 PM on April 20, 2008


From the people I know, it's not the bus passengers who object to the bendy buses. It's the car drivers who complain that they're too hard to overtake.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:08 PM on April 20, 2008


People who ride double decker buses, where you have to go down stairs while the bus is stopping and going or turning, are complaining about bendy buses being unsafe.

Oh, it's better than *that.*

People liked the Roadmasters because they could jump off the bus at any time, even when it was moving -- which is why bendy buses are unsafe, I guess.

I don't get the hatred of Bendy Buses, but then again, they've been part of my life since I was old enough to see them -- Chicago has been using them for at least thirty years, probably longer.

Then again, people don't realize how many, and how important, the bus networks are in Chicago and London (and why cars are so damaging in areas that have large bus networks.) Some 75% of the CTA's daily ridership is on bus, not train. London isn't quite that high, because the tube network is much more extensive than the L network, but take the buses out of the London Transit System, and it collapses.

Double Deckers are better in many london streets -- being much shorter in length, they're much easier to maneuver. Chicago's grid means that double-decks never really took off, we have standard length and bendy buses.
posted by eriko at 1:12 PM on April 20, 2008


It's the car drivers who complain that they're too hard to overtake.

Sometimes it's dressed up as not safe for cyclists. I'm a cyclist. It's bollocks.
posted by liquidindian at 1:15 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Regarding Red Ken...
posted by Class Goat at 1:49 PM on April 20, 2008


Bendy Buses are annoying if you're a pedestrian and want to cross the road - before you can walk to either end, the traffic's moving again.

I have a vote in this election, but I'm really struggling to find anyone I can give it to. Ken was alright once, but he's lazy and arrogant now and wastes too much money on worthless consultants and henchmen. Boris is a moron, and being an entertaining moron is not good enough mitigation. Paddick is a egotist whose acclaimed drug policies were a policing disaster on the ground IMHO.

Tell you what - if there's a consensus in this thread, that's how I'll vote.
posted by Phanx at 2:24 PM on April 20, 2008


Were I still registered in London (can't wait until I'm living there again), I'd be voting for Berry, and giving my second preference to Ken. He is pro-environment (pdf link), pro-gay rights (as mayor he set up Britain's first register for gay couples, three years before civil partnerships were a reality), anti-racist, pro-public transport, anti-war, and he genuinely seems to love London and want the best for it - all of it. (His reaction to the July 7th bombings had me nodding in agreement the whole way through.)

Johnson, on the other hand, compares gay marriage to polygamy and bestiality (oh, how original), opposed Kyoto, opposes legal recourse for those faced with racism, gave a journalist's address to a friend who said he was going to beat the guy up, and is generally objectionable, reactionary and divisive. I still can't understand the people who think electing him would be 'a laugh', much less a good idea; take away the blond hair and the oh-golly bumbling and there's an old-school right-wing Tory underneath.
posted by aihal at 3:29 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tell you what - if there's a consensus in this thread, that's how I'll vote.

There seems to be a pretty clear consensus against Boris. So vote for whoever you like with your first vote, but you have to put Ken down as your second vote.
posted by cillit bang at 4:38 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your country is doomed.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:13 PM on April 20, 2008


I think the antipathy towards bendy buses probably has more to do with the rather unpleasant habit they developed a few years ago of spontaneously combusting.

That, and the Routemasters were pulled from service after Ken specifically promised during the preceding election campaign that he wouldn't do it.

Still, overall... (and I got to vote for him in Brent East for years, too) Ken's been a spectacular success by any benchmark. I'd rather he hadn't packed quite so many Socialist Action fucktards into his department, but the congestion charge is fucking Made Of Win.

Nobody who ever rode a bus in the West End at rush hour before it started will ever vote against it, I'll tell you that much.
posted by genghis at 7:51 PM on April 20, 2008


That's just about all we have on our high-capacity routes. I don't recall any of the incidents that Londoners are bitching about happening in Seattle.

Possibly - but when the damn bendy buggers keep on exploding it's understandable that there's a bit of opposition.
posted by Sparx at 3:29 AM on April 21, 2008


I like the tiny footnote in that article about a Routemaster catching fire LALALA CAN'T HEAR YOU
posted by cillit bang at 3:34 AM on April 21, 2008


Yes, but cillit bang, in the Routemaster incident no one was injured. Therefore, bendy buses are evil. QED.

No one was injured in the bendy bus fire either? Shut up, bendy buses are evil, we have already proven it.
posted by grouse at 3:46 AM on April 21, 2008


I'm not sure about Boris for mayor.

For starters everyone calls him by his first name.
posted by BritishGas at 1:44 PM on April 21, 2008


From the Newsnight debate: Boris Johnson refuses to answer a question 12 times, concerning the cost of his proposed new fleet of buses. QFT
posted by Kirjava at 4:20 AM on April 22, 2008


I wish we can import Paxman just for one presidential debate.
posted by dw at 7:46 AM on April 22, 2008


Rainbow Hosts London Mayor’s Debate
posted by cillit bang at 1:30 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can't stand this character. He's an odious twit with obscenely ridiculous hair. Just watch him slowly destroy the city.
posted by Juglandaceae at 12:46 AM on May 15, 2008


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