While waiting through late March, April, and early May for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to publish the results of the presidential vote in that country, I noticed another election in progress. It was in London, England, and there it was the mayor, “Red Ken” Livingstone, who had condescended to submit to a public plebiscite.
My insinuation that Red Ken, now removed from office, was on a level with Robert Mugabe, still not removed, is perhaps a little unfair. The chief difference between them was opportunity. The scope for “leftwing” or “progressive” political thuggery is much greater in a post-colonial country, such as former Rhodesia, and with it the opportunity to “massage” an election result until it comes out right. The poor inmates of Zimbabwe have lived now for more than a quarter century under Mugabe’s reign of terror, with no prospect that, say, the United States Marines might suddenly arrive and give the western media something to talk about.
Whereas, Red Ken ruled the Greater London Authority for only eight years. And in the absence of armed revolutionary “war veterans” or any other proximate means to intimidate the inmates of London, he was compelled to manifest some of the personal charm that, I’m told, even Robert Mugabe is capable of displaying when he has no other choice.
Both gentlemen probably started by sincerely wishing the best for their respective constituencies. Absolute power, plus an ideological agenda, and a pronounced personal partiality to violence, made Mugabe into a monster who has visited little upon his people except fear, famine, pestilence, four-digit monthly inflation rates, and desperation, in a country that (under his demonized “racist” predecessor, the late Ian Smith) was the breadbasket of southern Africa.
Whereas, Mr Livingstone inherited a municipal bureaucracy that had previously been trashed and then extinguished by Margaret Thatcher. There was very little he could do with the city, besides trying to make the underground trains run on time. Of course, he often chafed under his restrictions.
“Lord Mayor” of the (inner) City of London, in the olden days, became an almost purely ceremonial post, a potential “bully pulpit,” except it was filled by a succession of decorative figures with nothing much to say. The mere Mayor of the Greater London Authority is for practical purposes also a token, but with a pulpit set up very high. Mayor Livingstone made good use of it, and adapted himself to life as a fairly entertaining talking head.
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, or more simply, “Boris”—the new mayor—is a former editor of the “highbrow” weekly Spectator (appointed by Conrad Black), who has been more journalist than politician. Sir Max Hastings, his boss when Boris worked at the Daily Telegraph, mentions his “facade resembling that of P.G. Wodehouse’s Gussie Finknottle, allied to wit, charm, brilliance, and startling flashes of instability.”
Just the man for the job.
Quote: “If gay marriage was OK—and I was uncertain on the issue—then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men, or indeed three men and a dog.”
Quote, after the London terror strikes of 7/7: “It is time to reassert British values. That means disposing of the first taboo, and accepting that the problem is Islam. Islam is the problem. To any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia—fear of Islam—seems a natural reaction, and, indeed, exactly what that text is intended to provoke.”
Quote, likening Tory leadership disputes to “Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing.” Condemned by that country’s High Commissioner, Mr Johnson replied that he would add Papua New Guinea to his global apology itinerary. He further added: “My remarks were inspired by a Time Life book I have which does indeed show relatively recent photos of Papua New Guinean tribes engaged in warfare, and I’m fairly certain that cannibalism was involved.”
Quote, on the city of Portsmouth: “One of the most depressed towns in Southern England, a place that is arguably too full of drugs, obesity, underachievement, and Labour MPs.”
Needless to say, Boris Johnson, in office, will be trying to keep a sock in it. But I find it interesting that, for example, the collapse of Britain’s Labour government scheme for a vast new bureaucracy to enforce “carbon credit trading” among the general population has already been attributed to “the Boris effect.” Merely having such a man on the horizon changes the way things are done.