Skipping the recap of Red Ken’s two terms:
There is plainly an element of risk in backing Mr Johnson. Newspapers have fretted about endorsing him precisely because journalists know Mr Johnson, a fellow journalist, so well and they know he has a history of letting people down. But there are grounds for suspecting that the gamble is not as wild a wager as it might appear.
The Conservative candidate is an enormously intelligent man. His eccentricities are, it should be remembered, basically harmless and inoffensive whereas Mr Livingstone’s various attempts to summon up the political spirit of 1968 and cosy up to political thugs and merchants of hate most definitely are not. The thrust of Mr Johnson’s policy suggestions on crime, transport and planning are sensible. His candour is welcome. His energy, enthusiasm and appetite for the role are much needed, particularly as London’s economy heads into a testing few years. He is alive to Londoners’ very deep concerns about drugs, stabbings and gangs, disappointment about persistent poverty and housing shortages, as well as their frustrations at traffic jams, empty bendy buses and an Underground network that is held to ransom by Bob Crow and the RMT. The responsibility of office will discipline Mr Johnson and will soon convince him, as it did Mr Livingstone, that a strong mayor who is more than the plaything of the boroughs is vital if the capital is to be prosperous.
If he does not, then London and the country will have learnt something of immense value. Mr Johnson is not the only Old Etonian with a sense of entitlement and a pretty modest understanding of truly ordinary people who intends to put himself up before the electors at some moment. A Johnson mayoralty would allow voters everywhere to reach a judgment on whether charisma, style and an easy elevation to prominence can be matched by the intelligence, steel and the commitment to be a leader in the interests of the many and not merely a well-entrenched few. If the experiment succeeds that will bode well for the credibility of a modernised conservatism. If it fails, voters in London and Britain will be wholly entitled to draw broader conclusions from it too.
Not an endorsement so much as another enjoyable rant about the man:
London’s significance is more than economic. The images foreigners most associate with Britain are Trafalgar Square, the Millennium Dome, Big Ben and double-decker buses.
And, for the past eight years, London has had a face: the man under whom many of those double-deckers were scrapped, Ken Livingstone.
Mr Livingstone is now asking for the third term that he once promised not to seek. “No mayor should serve more than two terms,” he said in 1998, adding that, since he had already served five years as leader of the GLC, “I would not seek to serve more than one term”.
Men can change their minds, of course, but Mr Livingstone’s reasoning is worth pondering. “It gets progressively more difficult to defeat a well dug-in incumbent who has been able to establish extensive systems of patronage… Corruption tends to flourish the longer an incumbent is able to hang on to power”.
What an eerily prescient analysis.
And what of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, the “oh, cripes!” bumbler who supposedly can’t open his mouth without putting his foot in it? Exuberant, entertaining and amiable he may be, but this campaign has shown a new side to his personality: seriousness, self-discipline and an ability to promote new ideas.
In the battle for ideas, the Johnson campaign is already streets ahead: Removing free bus passes from delinquent children; ending the loathed bendy-buses; allowing police to use money seized from drug dealers to fight crime; a drive to curb street violence with another 4,400 community support officers: the dumping of the £25 congestion charge; new help for first-time homebuyers…
He has some highly competent people behind him too and, most important, seems genuinely concerned to do something about London’s broken society, one of the main causes of the drugs and gun crime blighting so much of the city.
So let’s put our cards on the table. We believe London and Britain would be best served by a vote for Boris – and not simply because the Mail is instinctively conservative. Indeed, one of the attractive aspects of Mr Johnson’s campaign is his promise to put London first, even if it means disagreeing with national policies.
We support Boris because he offers change. We believe London deserves better than Ken’s chippy socialism, waste, cronyism and sleaze.
[The Guardian -
Hardly a ringing endorsement:
The Conservatives have fought a strategic campaign and benefited from Mr Livingstone’s weaknesses. That is not the same as setting out a solid case for office. Mr Johnson has offered celebrity and noise, but nothing very substantial, or even all that brave, his policies in many instances being modified versions of ones pursued by Mr Livingstone. He has been most persuasive when attacking the mayor’s flaws: his showy flattery of Hugo Chávez, his spendthrift ways and his shoddy tolerance of political clientism. But he has not shown himself equal to the mayor’s strengths. At the end of the campaign Mr Johnson still looks an accidental candidate who has stumbled into his position and is making the best of it, but might not make very much of being mayor. He promises better buses, less crime and a greener city, but cannot explain how he would bring these about. Some voters may also find the prospect of an Old Etonian Conservative as London’s representative hard to stomach, although all those who resent Mr Johnson’s glib remarks on race, sexuality and class in his journalism should be reminded that Mr Livingstone has an intolerant side, and his own collection of distasteful comments. …
If elected again, Mr Livingstone should not take victory as an endorsement of his efforts to turn City Hall into a personal fiefdom. The campaign has been at its best at the dozen live hustings attended by all main candidates, which have exposed all of their weaknesses. There is a lesson for the next general election there. Meanwhile, the choice facing London is not a happy one, but Mr Livingstone is the better option.