Sunday, 15 April 2012

Boris vs. Ken: London's 2012 Mayoral Elections

In two weeks, Londoners will vote in its new Mayor.  In fact, the front runners are currently two people (two men at that) who have already held this title, so there's a strong likelihood the next Mayor won't be so 'new' at all.  I was living in London at the time of the last election but had barely got my electoral roll act together so I don't remember voting, but the city spoke, and decided that it wanted a floppy-haired bicycle afficionado with a potentially embarrassing personal life and old school Tory political sensibilities.  After weeks of gimicks and larks about wouldn't it be funny if 'Boris' got in, given how he seemed to be treating this thing as a bit of a joke, and how he probably had no idea what the role really involved, Boris Johnson was elected Mayor of London and we were all a tiny bit stunned.  So, from the initial press shots, was he!

But he knuckled down and gave this whole 'being Mayor' thing a shot.  And in the past 4 years I think it is fair to say that Boris Johnson has surprised everyone by actually doing things within the city.  Sure, we all set the expectation bar pretty low, and sure, he's done plenty of things which have enraged the populace too.  But banishing the vile bendy buses, formerly introduced by his predecessor Ken Livingstone, got him at least one brownie point in my book.  His bike hire scheme too - despite featuring enormously cumbersome bikes which cluster only in the centre of town - was a surprisingly imaginative move, and has been very popular.  But public transport fares have shot up criminally, and the ridiculousness of the Olympics has taken over every inch of the city.  And don't even get me started on the proposed 'Boris Island' airport...

And now we have to vote again.  Will Boris have a second term, or will his Labour predecessor Ken Livingstone reclaim his title for a third term.  Sadly, none of the other candidates have much of a chance of defeating either of this pair.  (For proper run-downs of the candidates, I can highly recommend Dave Hill and London blogger Diamond Geezer's thoughts on the matter here.)  Both Boris and Ken unveiled 'battle buses' from which to mount their city-wide campaigns; both campaign teams had embarrassingly chosen the same slogan - 'Better off with [insert name of candidate here]'.  But who would London really be better off with?
Credit: This Is London

Whilst current MORI polls declare the battle for Mayor a two-horse race (sorry Lib Dems, sorry Greens, sorry everyone else), Londoners are still somewhat divided over which candidate knows more about particular issues or who can actually deliver on their campaign promises.  Whilst Boris wins on likeability he is only 1% more trusted than Ken.  Ken is deemed more useful in a crisis and is seen to have a far better grip on detail.  Whilst Boris fights back as a better ambassador for the city and is also cited as being more likely to get the best deal for Londoners from the government, only 26% of those polled thought he had the best understanding of the concerns of ordinary Londoners; almost 50% of voters thought that Ken had a better grasp on this.  (Although a recent farce involving a contrived video and some unconvincing tears may have undone Ken's credibility in this department.)  Possibly the most telling figures however indicate that voters simply do not know who has the better policies on matters such as crime, jobs and growth and housing.  What both candidates clearly need to do is communicate better.

Usually as local elections gather speed my letter-box is rammed with leaflets and pamphlets, pushing voters to make 'the right choice'.  But two weeks until poll day and I've received nothing from the front-runners, encouraging me to vote for them or even telling me what they're standing for.  I have had a four-pager from the Lib Dems promoting their candidate, Brian Paddick (well tried, guys, but we know how voting for you turned out last time), but nothing from Boris or Ken.  Have they forgotten North London or are they too busy arguing over who swore at who in a lift?  Should we really take seriously this pair who would rather score points over each other than win over the citizens whose interests they claim to represent?  With the Olympics looming and a atmosphere of financial gloom still plaguing the city London needs a solid leader who will propel the place back to productivity, prosperity and positivity.  So come on, boys.  Stop messing around and step up!  London needs you, whichever one of you it elects.      


  1. I am seriously not going to vote for either. even if it is a wasted vote, I can't stand the way they clown around. London needs someone serious and capable.

    1. Agreed, Jenny. There is a serious dearth of credibility around the entire election.


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