Monday, January 21, 2008

Londoners have got the mayor they deserve

Newspaper columnists have declared him unfit for office and TV documentaries have revealed him as the sleazy unrepentant marxist many suspected he always was. But come May 1st 2008 when the next Mayoral elections take place, Ken Livingstone will almost certainly be returned to power. How you ask can that be possible? After the failed congestion charge, the cronyism, the mayor's foray into international politics and his flirtation with Islamic extremists, aren't Londoners sick to death of him? But therein lies the answer.

Ken Livingstone has staked his entire career around identity politics. In the 1980s it was all about the Irish and Gay community, in 2008, it is all about Muslims, the environment and Chavistas. Who cares that traffic congestion is worse than ever... at least the motorists are suffering (so are bus users), who cares that Yusuf Qaradawi wants to throw a few homosexuals off a cliff... he also hates the Zionists, and who cares that London's transport is being subsidized by a third world country when the oil is coming from Hugo Chavez. Ken thrives on negative politics. A large enough core of Londoners will decide that "my enemy's enemy is my friend" and will turn out in their droves to vote for him. Meanwhile Ken's opponents will just shrug their shoulders and stay at home, turnout was only 36% during the last election.

It's all rather sad. London is a great city, but is rapidly gaining the reputation of a banana republic. Unfortunately, Londoners have got the mayor they deserve. They have an opportunity to make a change on May 1st, but will they bother?