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.