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This May, I Will Be Voting for Ken. This Is Why.

April 11, 2012

Contrary to what regular readers might believe, I am not a card-carrying member of the Labour party. Or any party. True, the Coalition has been the primary focus of my criticism, but this is a mere function of the fact they are currently in power. Why would I focus on anyone other than the people in a position directly to make decisions which affect my life?

Also, they appear to me to be the biggest collection of wazzocks ever in charge of anything, since the committee responsible for Troy’s postal services exclaimed: “What a delightful wooden horse. Of course we’ll open the gates.” Even conservative readers would have to concede that it would take very little work indeed to turn this current political crop into Spitting Image puppets. In some cases, no work. Like the rest of them, Boris seems to have been chosen for comedic value rather than competence.

On the other hand, would I have selected Ken as the primary challenger? I would not have. Not unless I could transmit a continuous signal into his brain which said “Shut up. You don’t mean that. Think first.”

But there you have it. Practically speaking, they are the two candidates with any chance of winning.

I must confess, however, I have been utterly baffled by the debate around which one Londoners should choose. Baffled by the assessment of the two principle candidates in terms of ethics, rhetoric, personality, personal tax affairs, politics. An entire metropolis of eight million people trying to assess which one would make a better mayor, stuck in the hypothetical. Facilitated, of course, by a relentless campaign by the London Evening Standard, desperate to reward the man which gave it its privileged, monopoly position.

If I clear away the clutter of who said what to whom, who makes how much and how they hide it, who promises what (as if we don’t have recent experience that a promise by a politician is not worth the breath with which it is uttered), I am left with my personal experience of life in London under Ken and life in London under Boris.

You see, you may not have notice in the midst of all the smoke and mirrors, but they have both actually held the post. The majority of Londoners have lived in London under both. This does not have to be a hypothetical or even ideological choice. And it isn’t for me.

There is no doubt in my mind, that during the eight years during which Ken was Mayor, London improved more than any other period in the 22 years I have lived here. Conversely, in the four years Boris has been in charge, with the exception of the occasional burst of laughter, very little has changed for the better and a lot of things have changed for the worse. The one possible exception is the bike rental programme. But wait – they were Ken’s plan, all organised and budgeted for, when Boris came into power and just christened them Boris-bikes.

In 2002 I stepped onto a bus, paid pennies with my new oyster card and travelled down dedicated bus lanes into the centre of London in times not achieved before. In 2012 I decided to take the tube from Bermondsey to London Bridge, because all of London is dug up, and had to buy a single ticket for £4.30 to go a single stop. Four pounds and thirty pence. To go a single stop. It took 25 minutes because of signalling failures.

Neither was an isolated incident. Both are a good summary of life in London then and now.

So, unless a sixth airport serving the capital – so far into the future as to constitute science fiction – is a burning issue for you, why the Dickens are we still talking about this? None of the candidates may be ideal in theory, but one of them was an exceptional Mayor, in practice.


The deadline to register for the upcoming election is the 18th April. You can do so online HERE. Whatever your views, make them heard.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2012 1:41 pm

    Second preference votes are used to elect the mayor if no single candidate receives more than 50% of the vote. Only the top two candidates receive the second preference votes.

    Given this, if you do not actually like Ken but genuinely believe only he or Boris stand a chance of winning, why not give your first vote to another candidate and your second preference to Ken? That way you can at least let him know your vote cannot be taken for granted.

    (Disclaimer: I am a member of the Green Party and will be voting for Jenny Jones then, with great reluctance, giving my second preference vote to Ken Livingstone. I cannot stand him but believe he will be less harmful as mayor than that charlatan Boris Johnson.)

    • DBartlett permalink
      April 12, 2012 3:34 pm

      You´re right. Following a great blog, you used the right word, Tim. In fact, one of the most disgusting semblances any politician can ever be guilty of. The crime of being a charlatan. I tend to disagree with you that Ken is only “less harmful” as I feel he did a lot of very good things for my city, but… Boris is simply a foppish insult to the people of London. And to the serious issues faced by one of the most important cities on the planet. Being silly, unique, funny, bouncy, peroxide-blonde and a bit befuddled is great… for a comic performer on stage at the Bournemouth Pier Theatre. But to run London? It´s an embarrassment and a disgrace. To add an unhealthy dose of elitism and toff indulgence to the list of embarrassments makes it deeply unpleasant. I would gladly welcome your candidate to the job before Boris. Jenny is a serious, intelligent candidate. Having said that, I would also gladly vote for the Go Compare tenor or Noddy before Boris…

  2. April 11, 2012 3:05 pm

    Hey Alex. Once again… you’re right on the money

  3. April 11, 2012 6:51 pm

    I know that Ken has said some pretty stupid things in his time, but I always felt that my status as a Londoner – in the broadest sense of the term – was preserved with Ken as mayor – if that makes sense. The fare hikes have been crippling for so many; the rents we pay are astronomical – whatever happened to “Fares Fair” and the Fair Rent Scheme? Also, we had some real solid good FUN with Ken – and that goes a long way to making London feel good. I am for a fairer, more equitable London – where those of us who are trying to earn a decent living are able to contribute to the community because we feel part of it and are not priced out of the market and therefore out of the community … *Rant over*

  4. April 12, 2012 8:00 am

    Londoners can’t stand another fares rise. I worry that my children’s school will lose more good teachers, and same for local health staff. I don’t think Ken should have been the candidate, and I’ve never felt less like voting, but Boris doesn’t have the right policies for ordinary Londoners.

  5. April 12, 2012 8:01 am

    I’m up in Scotland and Ken really does appear to love London and Londoners. Charlatan is the ideal word for Boris given his homophobic/racist use of language in the past.

  6. Joanna permalink
    April 29, 2012 8:26 am

    I think it’s slightly unfair to compare 8 years of London under Ken during a boom economy with 4 years of Boris in a monstrous recession and huge spending cuts.


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