BoJo might be a bozo… the concise edition

In the wake of the reaction to my previous post, I want to re-state and clarify what I wrote. I am well aware that the previous post was way too long and ranty, and when you blog like that it is easy to lose focus. Hopefully this will be short.

Snapesbabe reckons that my post yesterday said that “all people who are complaining about people who voted for Boris are stupid”. I don’t think that’s what I said and it certainly wasn’t my intention.

My point wasn’t to say that people complaining about Boris voters are stupid. My point, as I noted in my comment there, was to say that many of the most prominent people who complained about Boris Johnson’s voters were using arguments that were either irrelevant, invalid or could equally be levelled at Ken Livingstone’s voters.

Snapesbabe presented a post by Mitch Benn as a counterbalance to mine. I think Mitch Benn’s post demonstrates rather well what I was talking about. I know that Mitch Benn is a comedian, so you can’t expect him to play it straight. At the same time, it is very similar to just about everything I have read complaining about Boris Johnson over the past few weeks.

Here is Mitch Benn’s argument, summarised by me:

I don’t understand. How can over a million Londoners be such morons? Do they not see that Boris Johnson cannot be taken seriously? I can only conclude that they voted for him because of his appearances on Have I Got News For You. Otherwise people would see him for the Tory toff he really is.

Is there anything about Boris Johnson’s policies or record? Only this: “[Boris Johnson is] a man who has thus far struggled to demonstrate his ability to find his arse with both hands.”

This is what I’m talking about.

I will now look at the comments to another post, one which was favourable to my post yesterday. I think the comments thread demonstrates rather nicely exactly what I was saying. And these are people who have, I presume (given that they are commenting about it and all), read my post. Many of them have committed the same offences that I spent the best part of 3,000 words arguing against.

(NB. I should point out that I don’t know any of these people, so I may be misrepresenting their views. But I am assuming that they are opposed to Boris Johnson’s victory (this part is obvious from their comments) and are left-liberals who are disappointed in the current Labour government (this part I have inferred). Please accept my sincerest apologies if this is inaccurate.)

randwolf said:

This is what they said about the Democrats…and then we “elected” Bush II. …come to think about it, it was also, “…and then we elected Nixon.” The enemy of my enemy is not my friend.

“The enemy of my enemy is not my friend” was precisely what I was saying in my post yesterday. It applies equally to Ken Livingstone as it does to Boris Johnson. My point was that the campaign from the left was mainly a negative one against Boris Johnson rather than a positive one in favour of Ken Livingstone. Saying that you should vote against someone just because they are a Tory does not cut it. And if you carry on voting for Labour no matter how bad their policies become, don’t be surprised when they start adopting more terrible policies.

juggzy has the most sensible comment in the thread, although still misses the target in my view. It starts off by pointing out that Ken Livingstone has more experience. That’s a fair point, although once upon a time Ken Livingstone was just as inexperienced as Boris Johnson, so this can’t be the whole story.

Plus, as I noted in my post yesterday, if anyone stays in power too long it’s practically inviting corruption (and there were already signs of this in Ken Livingstone’s second term). So this is a tradeoff rather than a straightforward decision, and it depends on how seriously you view each potential weakness.

ffutures says:

Labour’s record on civil liberties does not excuse Boris Johnson. Two wrongs don’t make a right…

This was pretty much the point I made yesterday in reverse. The Conservatives’ policies from the Thatcher era do not excuse Ken Livingstone or any other current Labour politicians. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

rozk says:

…as with Cameron, he was in the Bullingdon – that speaks volumes.

So we’re back to “booo, he’s a toff!” As purplecthulhu replied,

College clubs? It’s easy to make veiled comments about what someone did in their teens and 20s…

I think most people would be relieved that they are judged on their character and opinions as they stand today rather than whatever they did as a youngster.

There are some people who, when pressed, were and are able to articulate genuine reasons why they genuinely think Boris Johnson should not have been voted London Mayor. This is fine, and I do not have a problem with that.

But these people are outnumbered by a factor of one hundred by arguments that basically amount to, “You shouldn’t vote for Boris Johnson because he is a clown and a Tory toff, and those people who do vote for him are idiots.” I am sorry, but if you write in The Guardian or the New Statesman or your left-wing blog something as lazy as that, you are not engaging in a debate — you are engaging in groupthink.

And if you spend the whole campaign just pointing out irrelevant stuff about Boris Johnson being a Tory toff rather than actually talking about policies, don’t be surprised if he goes on to win the election. Believe it or not, there is more to politics than the colour of the rosette. Evidently enough over a million Londoners simply do not care that Boris Johnson is a Tory toff.

And when, after Boris Johnson has won the election, you raise your arms and say, “the only possible explanation is that those voters are morons,” you are just making the situation worse. Because “those voters” will start to increase in number as they get turned off the left by their childish arguments, and one day the left will wake up to find that they are just talking among themselves. Perhaps that has already happened.

You must understand that I am not making any pro-Conservative, pro-Boris Johnson or anti-Ken Livingstone points. But I beg those good liberals and people of the left — for the sake of their cause — to start debating politicians on the basis of their merits rather than their background. After all, are not left-liberals supposed to be against judging people on the basis of their background?


  1. You must be tired after that lot if this was the short verson 😉

    The only decision I made today is to stay out of the Crewe by election.

  2. *juggzy has the most sensible comment in the thread, although still misses the target in my view. It starts off by pointing out that Ken Livingstone has more experience. That’s a fair point, although once upon a time Ken Livingstone was just as inexperienced as Boris Johnson, so this can’t be the whole story.*

    Thank you, but you can’t have read the whole comment. I pointed out that as Mayor, Ken had far more experience to start with in his first term, due to his experience on the GLC. So presumably he picked that experience up on the GLC, through which he worked his way up.

  3. Juggzy, I didn’t miss that bit. What I am saying is, once upon a time he did not even have any experience on the GLC.

  4. I appreciate your perspective, but I’ve got to be honest – it comes across as pretty disingenuous that over the space of two very long posts having a go at people making personal criticisms of Boris Johnson, you never once mentioned the overwhelmingly dominant criticism of his persona – that he is at best deeply lazy about diversity issues, and at worst an outright bigot. To criticise people for their limited discourse about him (“he’s a Tory toff!”) while never acknowledging what the full complaint is (“he’s a Tory toff who calls black people ‘picaninnies’, thought the Macpherson report was ‘hysteria’ and thinks there’s an equivalence between gay marriage and bestiality”) is odd, to say the least.

    Obviously, there’s a debate there about the nature of Boris’s perspective – is he actually a bigot? – but you don’t even mention that such a debate has been taking place.

    It’s also flat-out wrong to suggest that it’s just the left who have been criticising Boris for having a track record of specific incompetency and self-interest that bodes very ill for him taking up a position that’s predominantly a technocrat’s domain. Simon Heffer is the most obvious, but there’s been plenty of long-standing Tories who’ve been embarrassed by having Boris as “their” candidate.

    And furthermore, you’ve mis-characterised the most common and most weighty attack on his policies – which is absolutely not that he hasn’t got any, but that they’re uncosted, back-of-the-napkin populism that will either achieve very little or be completely impractical (see, for example, his Magic Routemasters pledge).

    I do agree that there’s been a complacency that’s characterised a lot of the Ken campaign – the belief that Boris couldn’t really win – and there’s been a lot of emotional venting after the fact. But I really think that you’ve missed a lot of what the discussion leading up to the election was about. Which is understandable, what with you not being in London, but it should maybe give you pause before making sweeping statements asserting that things haven’t been said. Because they have been said, at length.

  5. Tom, I said at least a few times over the course of the posts I have written that there were legitimate criticisms of Boris Johnson’s policies and records and that I don’t have a problem with that. My problem is with the fact that these were drowned out by silly chest-beating.

    I could have added in an extra couple of paragraphs about whether or not Boris is a bigot, but you know that there are equal arguments that Ken Livingstone is anti-Semitic, is associated with extreme homophobes, etc etc. Those paragraphs would have got us nowhere.

    I, of course, could have written a post analysing every single aspect of the debate, but that post would have been more like 40,000 words than 4,000 words. My goal was just to point out that a huge proportion of the anti-Boris or pro-Ken commentary was pure guff.

    Maybe this was different in London. I can only comment on whatever I have read, which is of course main in national sources. But given that almost all of the national media is London media, I don’t have my hopes high that the London-only debate was all that much better.

  6. Yes, and he worked his way up through the GLC rather than be catupulted in at the top. Are you being willful here or am I just imagining it?

    I agree with what Tom says: You are exhibiting an extraordinary tendency to criticise not the *actual* criticisms of Boris but rather, snippets taken out of context and incomplete, meaning that you are inaccurately portraying what the actual criticism is. It makes your criticism of the criticism less valid.

  7. Like I say, the experience thing is a trade-off. You can as easily say that Ken Livingstone has spent too long on the gravy train and at least Boris Johnson has fresher experience in fields other than politics. It is not as if Boris Johnson has zilch political experience either because he has been building this for several years now.

    I don’t think it is invalid to point out when people make arguments that are irrelevant. That people are so fixated on Boris Johnson’s background is the issue, and when you look at the commentary that has been written over the past few weeks the lion’s share is made up of it. Even in the odd times when people have made a legitimate point about his policies or his record, it has been buried in the middle of a character assassination based on the fact that he has a privileged background.

    I — and many others — find it easy enough to criticise Tony Blair without resorting to jibes about the colour of his rosette, his privileged Fettes education, etc etc. In fact, to a great extent, none of this is an issue with Tony Blair (which is the way it should be). So why do people find it so difficult to do the same with Boris Johnson?

  8. *That people are so fixated on Boris Johnson’s background is the issue, and when you look at the commentary that has been written over the past few weeks the lion’s share is made up of it. Even in the odd times when people have made a legitimate point about his policies or his record, it has been buried in the middle of a character assassination based on the fact that he has a privileged background.*

    This is a sweeping generalisation and one backed by no facts at all and demonstrates exactly what Tom says you are doing. You keep focussing on the fact that Boris is a Tory Toff. Very few other people are. The thrust of the anti Boris arguments are to do with his racism and homophobia, none of which you mention as being a criticsm at all.

    When people criticise Boris Johnson it is for the things he says that indicate racism and homophobia, rather than his background, which comes second. People may try to *excuse* his antediluvian stances by referring to his privileged background, but that’s really no excuse at all.

  9. Juggzy, you must have been hearing and reading very different commentary to what I saw. I have backed up my arguments with facts in the form of links to the articles I am talking about. I have linked to Charlie Brooker (who I know plays it for laughs, but this was one of the most widely cited articles of the whole campaign as far as I could see), Mitch Benn (who is also probably playing it for laughs, but he is a satirist so is supposed to be making legitimate political points) and the comments thread in which you took part. I can link to more if you want…

  10. One thing I’d not picked up until yesterday was that Boris’ wife is half Indian. That he has not tried to use this to his advantage during the campaign (at least as far as I can see) is to his credit.

  11. I point you at the phrase lifted from your reply: *the lion’s share*

    As entertaining as Charlie Brooker and Mitch Benn are, they is not the only people who have been commenting on Boris and the folly of electing him to the London Mayorality.

    Certainly the comments thread in which I took part contained far more than ‘Boris is a toff’, something which has already been pointed out to you.

  12. purplecthulhu — That’s a very good point that I hadn’t realised either. It would have been very easy for him to try to use that to dispel the idea that he is a racist.

    Juggzy — As I have now said several times, at no point did I ever deny that there were good arguments against Boris Johnson and that they were being used. I think, though, that the “boo he’s a Tory” style of argument was utilised more often, and I note that you don’t disagree because you seem to agree with me that it is true that it made up “the lion’s share” of the debate.

  13. No, I do not agree that it made up *the lion’s share* of the debate. Why is that not clear to you? Why does this phrase, written by me: *You keep focussing on the fact that Boris is a Tory Toff. Very few other people are* indicate to you that I agree with you that the ‘lion’s share’ of the debate is based on the fact that Boris is a toff.

    This is just another indication that you really aren’t reading people who disagree with you carefully enough.

  14. You said that you had quoted Charlie Brooker and Mitch Benn in support of your contention that the only argument against Boris was that he was a toff.

    I was reminding you that you had used the phrase ‘The Lion’s share’ and that quoting two articles, albeit by very entertaining writers (and for the audience, they are both worth a read) was certainly not proving that ‘the lion’s share’ of the criticism aimed at Boris was that he was a toff.

  15. Do you want me to hunt down every single article written about Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone in the past month and then tot up a precise percentage of articles that focussed on irrelevancies? How ridiculous. That is just like the argument that because “only” two million people demonstrated against the Iraq War that a majority weren’t opposed to it. What a red herring.

    The point is that, whether you agree that it made up the majority of the argument or not (and it feels to me very much that it was), it definitely was a prominent feature of the debate. And that, I suggest, made Boris Johnson’s victory easier than it needed to be. It also plays into the hands of the authoritarian Labour government for reasons I outlined in the first post.

    Update: And do I yet again need to point out that I never said that the “only” argument against Boris Johnson was that he is a toff?

  16. No, I do not expect you to hunt down every argument, but neither do I think an extrapolation from two articles to the majority of articles is legitimate.

    As to the comparison with the Iraqi war; toy soldiers much? I don’t think you can say that the majority of people were against the war (I was) at all; you certainly can’t extrapolate there, so , yes, I am saying it is like that argument now that you bring the ‘red herring’ up.

    Come on. If you are going to make sweeping statements, at least support them. To me, it *does not* appear that the majority, if not the major argument tilted at Boris is that he is a Toff. And, I suspect, neither does it appear that way to the majority of people who feel that London has made a very very bad decision, here.

    And you know what? There is nothing that says your perception is more valid than mine.

    What is clear is that most people who were able to vote in the election do not believe that the criticisms of Boris were enough to overcome his position as favoured toppler-of-Ken. That’s democracy and a media with an axe to grind for you.

  17. Yes, but no-one extrapolated from the anti-war demonstration alone. It was the demonstration plus the opinion polls plus the debates that people were having on the street plus the media coverage that made it quite clear that a majority (or at least a plurality) of people were opposed to the war. Then pro-war people turned round and said, “look — 2 million people demonstrated against Iraq War. That means that 58 million people must be in favour of it!”

    Now I am saying that it is fairly obvious from x, y and z (which I will not list again because I have spent thousands of words doing so already) that the standard of the debate from the left was not good enough in this election. And all you can say is, “ah, but you’ve only cited two or three articles.”

    So if it is what you really want I will cite some more.

    Ach. That floppy hair, and that sodding bicycle.

    Enter the jester

    Dawn of the dickhead… A city of grown men and women elected their leader for a laugh.

    The very fact that Boris Johnson could appear to be a plausible candidate for Mayor of London shows us that our society is still disfigured by problems of social class

    Londoners: A warning

    So, back to the days of ‘born to rule’ toffs lording it over us eh?

    No doubt I could go on, but I don’t want to waste any more time demonstrating it.

    To pre-empt some of your regular straw-men:

    Yes, some of these articles do contain genuinely good, legitimate points. But they all, to differing extents, focus on his background and various other irrelevancies. Which is all I said they were doing.

    Is my point that the only arguments against Boris were irrelevant? No. But they were certainly a highly prominent element of the debate. And if anything this sort of negative tosh is precisely what will turn people off politics and the left in particular.

  18. *Yes, but no-one extrapolated from the anti-war demonstration alone. It was the demonstration plus the opinion polls plus the debates that people were having on the street plus the media coverage that made it quite clear that a majority (or at least a plurality) of people were opposed to the war.*

    Oh, good, because that wasn’t what you were implying in the last post.

    As to the quotes – again – you can’t just make some quotes and say that the majority of the arguments against Boris were that ‘he’s a toff’.

    And four out of the six quotes you provide aren’t even saying that Boris is Wrong because he’s a Toff. Unless you yourself are guilty of prejudice and jumping to conclusion based on image. I know plenty of working class people with floppy fringes who ride bicycles, etc.

    That the arguments saying that Boris was a Toff and therefore we shouldn’t elect him were a highly prominent element of the debate may be self evident to you; it still certainly isn’t to me.

    No. It’s the fact that he is a racist (anti African) bigot and a homophobe (anti-gay marriage) who has very little experience in leading anything (Spectator during the shalgalot era), who spouts populist nonsensical policies without bothering to cost them (routemasters vs bendy buses) who is in hock to a constituency that is worried about short termism gain rather than long term sustainable policy (£25 congestion charge), who is a habitual liar (see again Spectator during shagalot era), who may well be in hock to those who wish to run the capital for personal gain rather than the benefit of all (refusal to commit to levels of social housing) that seemed to me to be the prominent arguments against Boris, and to me to be the prominent arguments given by those who hold the opinion that electing Boris to the Mayorality is utter foolishness.

    But then, I don’t read the Evening Standard.

  19. Juggzy, have you even read my posts or comments? I wasn’t just concerned that people resorted to complaining about Boris Johnson’s social class. It was a whole host of other irrelevancies as well. And the quotes I highlighted were all focussed on complete irrelevancies.

    As for your charge-sheet against Boris Johnson, this is fine. Except that as I have also pointed out time and again, while people may accuse Boris Johnson of being a racist homophobe, people are equally able to accuse Ken Livingstone of being an anti-Semitic homophobe. He is also a known liar as he initially stated that he would not run for London Mayor as an independent. And there were leadership and corruption problems in his second term. It is not as if you have landed much in the way of killer blows to Boris Johnson.

    But like I said. My point was never to make any pro-Boris or anti-Ken points. And I am happy that you may have had genuine reasons to support Ken Livingstone. But many people only had poor reasons to oppose Boris Johnson.

    My point is that if people continue to vote Labour simply because they aren’t the Tories, I hope these people are happy that the result of this is that the Labour government will become more and more authoritarian because supposed left-liberals will continue to let them literally get away with murder.

  20. I did read your articles, and I was gobsmacked by how most of them didn’t focus on irrelevancies. I think the fact that Boris is a serial liar is very relevant. I did not think that the focus of those articles is on irrelevancies.

    There is no comparison between the levels of Boris’s anti gay and anti African remarks compared with the remark by Ken that people like to quote as semitic – as an exercise I leave you the challenge of finding it.

    I hear what you are saying about voting Labour because they aren’t the Tories. I’m presuming that you are another of these young and testosteroned lib dem activisits. Equally, I say to you, to support the election of anyone who isn’t labour will serve to push the country to the right and certainly not into the arms of the lib dems. If this election has any good effects it will be to push labour more to the left where it shold be, and that, I expect will eventually eat into the lib dem part of the vote again.

  21. I mean anti-semitic of course. I can’t edit these articles the way that you can, being a visiting commentor, possibly.

  22. Yeah, sorry about that. There is a comment editing WP plugin available but it’s not a top priority for me.

    I know very well where the accusations of Ken Livingstone’s anti-Semitism stem from — when he failed to retract or apologise for remarks about concentration camps that Oliver Finegold found offensive. For what it’s worth, I think the anti-Semitism charge is wide of the mark, but his refusal to apologise reveals something more damaging about his general conduct. Equally, I think the accusations of Boris Johnson’s racism are rather overstated.

    If you read my first post you will see that I am decidedly not a party identifier. Although you are correct in the sense that of the parties I tend to drift towards the Lib Dems, I am certainly not an activist and I have a general distaste for party politics as a whole. I decide who I vote for not on tribal lines but on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the candidates, I am thinking of voting SNP in the next election. If all the candidates are poor, I will abstain (as I partially advocated at the end of the first post).

  23. Christ – what is everyone’s problem with Boris. Seriously? This whole episode – especially the comments here and elsewhere – is making me despair. I’ve been largely on the left for a decade. I voted for Ken twice. I even gave one vote to Labour for the London Assembly last week. But this anti-Boris thing is pathetic.

    “He’s a racist and a homophobe”, they cry. I’ve read those articles Tom refers to, and no – no he’s not (at least, not on the evidence of those pieces). Individual lines taken out of context can appear racist/homophobic, yes – but (especially with the picaninnies piece) what everyone’s doing with Boris is equivalent to accusing Johnathan Switft of advocating eating babies having read a single line of “A Modest Proposal” (not that Boris has ever approached Swift in terms of quality, but still…)

    “He’s got no experience of high office!” they shout. What about Tony Blair? He’d never even held a ministerial post before becoming Prime Minister. And in any case, holding high office doesn’t mean you do everything, it means the buck stops with you – the only qualification you need is to be prepared to accept responsibility (something Ken has rarely done – as with his refusal to apologise over the concentration camp guard comments – and which Boris has proved amply by taking the blame for the Liverpool piece in the Spectator, despite not having written it, because as editor it was his ultimate call).

    In short, the anti-Boris stuff is all very silly – and at its heart always seems to boil down to the brainwashing of an entire generation. Tories are evil – especially the ones who went to Eton – because Thatcher did some stuff 20-30 years ago. And, obviously, political parties are completely incapable of changing. (Because, after all, 30 years ago it’s not as if Labour were anti-EEC, anti-US and anti-Nuke, is it?)

    It’s all so pathetically stupid – especially when you boil it down to the basics of Labour vs Tory in the evil stakes (which seems to be the only option when faced with such trenchant, inflexible, self-righteous, blindly loyal viewpoints):

    Death-toll as a direct result of Thatcher’s policies? A few hundred. Death toll as a direct result of the current Labour government? A few hundred thousand.

    And yet it’s the Tories who are evil. Christ.

  24. “Death-toll as a direct result of Thatcher’s policies? A few hundred.”

    And the indirect death toll?

    (This is not me excusing Tony Blair of anything, by the way. His craven following of the US government agenda is culpable. The thing is it makes us all guilty, too, merely because we are citizens of the country he led.)

  25. The indirect death-toll? No idea. But I doubt it comes anywhere near that of Blair/Brown/Labour – even by the most conservative estimates of the bodycount of the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan.

    And in any case, my real point is that none of that matters – because both parties and people change (if I didn’t believe that, I’d be in favour of the death penalty). What happened in the past is irrelevant – when we vote, we vote for the future.

  26. I wouldn’t say the past is completely irrelevant. Obviously if you have to consider an incumbent candidate or the current government you have to judge them on their recent record. But clearly going back to the 1980s is stretching it a lot.

    As for Boris Johnson’s now famous “piccaninnies” article, I do think it is one of those “often cited but seldom read” pieces. I have read the article and it is not obvious to me that Boris Johnson’s intention was to make racist remarks. Rather, when you read the quotes in context, it seems to me that he was lambasting Tony Blair.

    When you look at the people who made a fuss about the article in the first place, it is clear that they had an agenda. They were Labour politicians attempting to discredit an ascendant Conservative rising star. It is very interesting that it took them five whole years to register their disgust, and that point in time just so happened to be when Boris Johnson announced his intention to stand for London Mayor. Of course, precisely because of all of this “boo the Tory party is the nasty party” stuff, they knew that a racism charge would stick very easily and would receive little scrutiny. And bingo, it worked.

    Even then, Boris Johnson apologised for the offence that his article caused. If only Ken Livingston had the humility to apologise for his mistakes.

  27. Two points.

    1) I do find a lot of the “Boris Johnson is only famous for being on Have I Got News for You” arguments completely maddening. I was really upset that in the entire election nobody ever seemed to mention that Ken has been on HIGNIFY exactly the same number of times as Boris has (7):

    2) The problem I had with Boris was that he wants to spend more money on the Police and more money on Public Transport while simultaniously reducing the collection of tax by reversing the congestion charge. At no point was funding for this sufficiently explained other than the incredibly wooly “efficiency gains”.

    I know that the rot would have probably set in during the third term but better the devil you know was my policy.

  28. Aaaaargh. This is getting silly.

    For what it’s worth, no, I don’t personally think Boris is a racist, at least not in the commonly understood sense. I do however worry that he’s dangerously complacent about racial issues – either way, it’s surely, at the very least, a legitimate matter of concern for people who have an interest in such issues.

    His stance on gay rights is also a worry, both in his written comments and his parliamentary record. Once again, it could be worse – he’s backed some rights, and opposed others – but it’s surely a legitimate area of concern, and based on far more than a few stray quotations. You may not feel yourself that it’s that big a deal, but to dismiss it out of hand is going too far, I’d say.

    And I just don’t understand Nosemonkey’s point that it’s somehow wrong to oppose him because he’s a Tory. It’s not based on a personal, I-spit-on-you-Tory-scum animus – it’s simply a disagreement with the policies, premises and beliefs that Conservatism is based on, both traditionally and currently. How is that not a legitimate basis for opposing someone?

    To bring in the Iraq war – something that Ken Livingstone opposed, that very many of his supporters opposed, but which Boris enthusiastically backed – as a rationale for not criticising Johnson for his political beliefs is just strange, frankly. I really don’t get where you’re coming from there.

    I do think that there’s a chance that Boris might do some good as Mayor – he has some strong libertarian instincts which I approve of, and he might be able to get away with things Ken never could, in a Nixon-goes-to-China sort of way. But the hand-waving, ill-thought-out policies he ran on, and his gimmicky early announcements in the past few days, don’t seem to bode terribly well as of yet. We’ll see.

  29. Boris Johnson’s views on homosexuality are a legitimate concern, although I think it’s a bit strange to focus on that when Ken Livingstone has his own questions to answer in that regard. It’s arguable that Boris Johnson is worse in this area — I really don’t know. But Ken Livingstone has definitely put his foot in it a few times recently over homosexuality.

    And the Iraq War is actually precisely the sort of thing that I think Labour have been allowed to get away with too easily. It is well known that the Conservatives were in favour of going to war in Iraq. But given the public unease over the issue, I think the fact that had it been the Conservatives in government they would have found it a lot more difficult to claim legitimately that they could go to war. You just need to look at the so-called “decent left” to realise that the fact that a nominally “left wing” party was pursuing the Iraq War made it a damn sight easier for them to legitimise.

  30. I think this Ken Livingstone=2008 Labour Party is misleading and possibly confounding two issues which should not be.

    Ken is a socialist. As leader of the GLC he was Socialism Incarnate. He may have mellowed slightly since then, but he is definitely to the left of the current Labour Party. I can only assume that this is why he ran as an independent candidate previously, having disowned Nu-Lab (or perhaps it was mutual!)

    The Labour Party are – at the moment – questionably centre-left. I would be very surprised if those who supported Ken in his GLC days are still Labour voters – or if they are, they are reluctant – so you can’t really say that a vote for Boris is a protest vote against Labour.

    Anyway, it is easy for us to sit up here and pass judgement on London (although I can at least say that I have lived/studied there); in the same way that many of my English chums say, perplexed, ‘Why does Scotland want independence?’ It’s not something you can easily understand if you don’t live there.

  31. A very good article Doctor. Pity most of the commentators seemed to be missing the point!

  32. agentmancuso – most of the commenters are eithers agreeing with doctorvee that just because Boris is a Tory it doesn’t mean that he won’t do a good job – or that electing Ken again doesn’t suggest that we condone the policies of the current Labour Party. I think the point has been met absolutely.