Let’s decide the London mayor contest with a wrestling match

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson poses for a pho...

Boris Johnson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, Boris or Ken?

The elections for London mayor are upon us, and I’m tempted to say we should delay the whole thing a few months and let them wrestle each other for the job as an event at the Olympics.

Except I don’t think the sight of either Boris Johnson or Ken Livingstone semi-naked and oiled up would be particularly appealing for anyone — although Boris does seem to have his share of female admirers.

In many ways a wrestling contest would be the natural conclusion to an election campaign that has focussed little on policy differences but has turned personal, what with Johnson calling Livingstone a “fucking liar” in a lift.

I’m struck by how the London mayor vote has become dominated by charisma in a way no other British election is. At a time when national politics is run by carefully bland men with spin doctors  to smooth out the slightest hint of a personality, the race for mayor is between a serial philanderer who made his name acting the buffoon on TV quiz shows and says “fuck” on camera, and a hard left maverick who breeds newts and whose party didn’t want him as candidate but had to take him on after he beat them as an independent.

Compare this to the national scene, where we have David Cameron, a man who has clearly worked hard to perfect his blandness over the years, and 3d Milb&, the Adenoidal Android, who clearly hasn’t needed to.

Boris Johnson’s haircut has more charisma than these two.

At the last general election, we were so starved of personality that Nick Clegg briefly became a character. Nick Clegg!

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 26JAN08 - Ken Livingstone, ...

Ken Livingstone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps it’s understandable the British public have become wary of charismatic prime ministers. The last two were Margart Thatcher and Tony Blair, and look at the mess they got us in.

On the other hand, the bland, uninspiring men haven’t worked out that well either. John Major and Gordon Brown both presided over economic disaster.

But London seems to make up the void, plumping for a larger-than-life character every time. Is it because the glamourous world city embraces celebrity in a way the dour shires do not?

Of course, it’s in part because the mayoral election is the nearest thing to a presidential vote we have, the one time we vote for a single candidate instead of a party.

Indeed, if you want to know what sort of President we’d get if we ever decided to do away with the Queen, look no further than the race for London mayor. I’ll leave you to decide how that makes you feel about the monarchy.

It seems strange that the analysts and pundits are so keen to see the London vote as a weather vane for the national political mood. They think Ken might ride to victory on a wave of anger against the coalition government — and Boris obviously thinks so too from the way he’s been distancing himself from George Osborne — while a victory for Johson would steady the government after a couple of months of turbulence.

But both of these men are mavericks, who have always been outsiders in their parties — indeed, Ken was thrown out of the Labour Party when he decided to run for mayor the first time. Both have a track record as mayor of standing up for what they see as London’s best interests against their party leaders.

Perhaps we should see the London race as separate from national politics, and indicating little about it. When it comes to policy, there’s been suprisingly little between them, considering Livingstone is supposedly on the hard left of the Labour Party and Johnson is a Tory. Often, the debate has come down to who will deliver the same goals most effectively.

So, Boris or Ken? Neither of them takes my breath away, but personally I’d go for Boris, for cutting red tape and bureaucratic waste, for trying to rein in the police, and for bringing back the Routemasters. Unless we can have that wrestling match.

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  1. lawrence says

    Maggie was the best thing that ever happen to the UK. She came in when the UK was on its knees having been bailed out by the IMF greek style thanks to a wasteful labour government (shame we don’t learn) and got Britain growing economically restored our self respect.
    Yes there were hard times on the way but you can’t sort out the mess a Labour government causes easily, as we are again learning!
    The shame is now we don’t have Maggie to make the big bold decisions needed to repair our country we have a wet blanket, Cameron, who even worse is held back by a drip called Clegg.

    Boris for Prime Minister

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