04 June 2011

The Jason Voorhees of British Politics

For those unfamiliar with the character of Jason Voorhees, he is the primary Antagonist of the Friday 13th series of films. Anyone famiilar with these will know the drill. Voorhees appears and wreaks havoc, usual involving multiple homicides only to seem as though he has finally perished. Then the film usually leaves a degree of ambiguity as to his fate. The franchise's original 1979 instalment spawned an enormous 10 sequels, some of which are some of the most wretched examples of horror cinema ever seen, but still Jason survives. The reason for mentioning him is that with the elections for the London assembly and mayoralty in prospect next year, perhaps its time to focus on the man most like him in terms of his longevity and arguably his likely impact on the London scene, for he has once more been up to his usual tricks.

Former mayor of the GLC, and two term London Mayor before his surprise defeat in 2008, Ken Livingstone has compared his mayoral rival's chief of staff, Eddie Lister to the Recently indicted Serbian General Ratko Mladic . It's not the first time the man has made a tastelessly crass remark. Who can forget his comparison of Evening Standard reporter Oliver Finegold (of Jewish descent) with a Nazi Concentration Camp guard?

The Voorhees analogy, no doubt distasteful to Livingstone's acolytes as his comparison of Lister (who has courted controversy for potentially charging children for access to public playgrounds) to a man accused of the genocide of 8000 people is however apt. Whatever else I think of him, following his defeat at the hands of Kenneth Baker in 1986, he bounced back in 2000 to defeat two candidates (including a rival from his former party) to win the mayoralty and held the position for 8 years. I hoped his defeat by current incumbent, Boris Johnson in 2008 had finally driven a metaphorical stake through his political heart, but terrifyingly the man has returned to once again cast his dark shadow over the London scene. As Giroscoper points out, chillingly, the London elections are not, as I erroneously thought conducted on an electoral college basis (ie borough by borough), thus the multiple defeats he suffered in 2008 in the outer London boroughs could be overcome by him piling up enough of a majority amongst the so-called 'Rainbow coalition' (composed of around 11 boroughs with heavy concentrations of ethnic minorities, students and public sector employees) which delivered him two election triumphs. Admittedly many more verbal gaffes such as this one, and the poll lead he has might start to look slimmer, but it is perhaps a reflection on the chaos wrought in the nation's capital between 1997 and 2010, that such a being can have the slightest chance of achieving high office after decisive rejection in 2008.


Hal Berstram said...

I'm backing Ken for mayor in 2012 - straight down the line. And I think he'll win it.

Ken only lost by less than 7 percentage points in 2008 - at a time when Labour were about 15 points down in the national polls. Labour are now about 5 points UP in the polls. I calculate that as a 10% swing Tory to Labour. OK, Boris might get some incumbency effect (though god knows why... he's been crap), but Ken only needs a 3.5% swing to win it. And I'd be amazed if he didn't get that.

Losing is part of Boris's plan anyway. He wants to lose narrowly, blame the loss (eventually, not immediately) on Cameron and Osborne, and then pitch for the leadership after the Tories lose to Labour in 2015 (at which election, he will have found a safe Westminster seat). The guy's gameplan is clear and straightforward. I expect a classic stroppy "bad loser" post-election speech in 2012 - along the lines of Nixon's 1962 "you won't have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore" - before 3 years of touring the Tory constituency parties, dashing off a couple of Obama-esque books, and constant media appearances. Boris is an irritating fop and a pretend clown, but you have to admire the guy's sheer chutzpah.

Van Patten said...

Which was the purpose of the post - like Jason Voorhees (or Freddy Krueger, arguably perhaps slightly better known by non-horror afficionados) he keeps coming back. Whatever I think of him (see below)he bounced back after the magnificent Lord Baker blew him out of the water in 1986, and even without support from his Party on the back of their electoral landslide in '97 the parachuted in Frank Dobson couldn't beat him - that was truly an awesome display of electioneering. I think given what you've explained about the Electoral college (and I did think it was on a borough by borough basis)for London he has a very strong chance of getting in.

In terms of incumbency effect, bear in mind it's two fold - a degree of incumbency effect for Boris (maybe 2% - he does have the best positive ratings for any Tory politician) and a degree of people (arguably around perhaps 5% of the electorate) who will vote for ANYONE other thsn Livingstone. (I know about this section of the electorate because when I lived in London I was part of it) so Livingstone needs to really mobilise his core vote to ensure victory - but he does have a strong record of doing this. Indeed Miliband E would do well to take a look at the coalition he had assembled in planning for 2015 - the unemployed, ethnic 'minorities' (although my ward was 2% White - what does that make me?) and Public Sector recipients (be they quangoes, Trade Unionists or the employees themselves) The forces ranged against him are the usual Whites/Ugandan Asians/Chinese, basically ethnic groups who tend to be suspicious of Socialist activity, Private Sector employees and Libertarians.

I agree Johnson's regime probably hasn't been as effective as I would expect but to be blunt in terms of the impact on the capital, even Richard Barnbrook would have had a hard time having more of a negative impact than Ken. He was beaten in a History Today poll for 'most evil personality in Britain' of the 20th century by the late Oswald Mosley and Lady Thatcher, but in the running for the 21st century candidate he and Blair are running out in front at the minute. Truly horrific - cannot think of anything (even Oyster cards have a political aspect to them , as well as their effect on foreign tourism (a £5 basic non-Oyster fare for F**ks sake!))positive in terms of his impact.