My fellow Blogger has posted his thoughts on yesterday's Local Elections in the UK, and has unsurprisingly focused on the London Mayoral Elections, which seem to be the single bright spot in an otherwise fairly dismal picture for the Coalition. More on the wider ramifications, which are a direct result of the questionable Budget on which I posted what seems like an eon ago, later in the week, but it's perhaps worth considering the scale of the Johnson achievement, which comes in the shadow of A:/ A pretty dire performance by the Conservatives within London even in the 2010 Elections where they were the largest party and B:/ In the face of National polling data which has seen even the much-maligned Ed Miliband presiding over a 13 point (at maximum) poll Lead, which has led even Erstwhile and somewhat tiresome Former Statesman blogger Dan Hodges to damn him with faint praise. ( 9.30pm London time: Warning - Lest I speak too soon - It appears the result is considerably tighter than predicted - it looks like it will go right to the wire. However, the basic critique remains valid although were Livingstone to win the ramifications for those unfortunate enough to live in London would require a separate post)
As my colleague has pointed out, anyone wanting to see the scale of Ken's achievement in managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of what would have seemed certain victory need only follow Andrew Gilligan's blog in the Telegraph which gives an almost daily dose of bile for those able to stomach it. This has been derided on the Left as a 'smear campaign' which given the outrageous calumnies against Boris seen almost Daily on Twitter suggests either a distinct lack of Irony or failure to take account of the phrase beloved of the late Peter Cook, 'Mote and Beam , sir, Mote and Beam' (Based on the Biblical quotation from Matthew 7:3)
'Why beholdest thou the mote that is in your brother's eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye'
A quote the increasingly desperate bloggers such as Owen Jones and Sunny Hundal (who appear willing to forgive almost any outrage if it gets a Labour victory) would do well to bear in mind. One can only imagine the reaction had Johnson made some of the verbal gaffes that Ken had. Who can forget this classic piece from the Ultra Left Compass think tank which would have touched the heart of the Late Joseph Goebbels with its use of selective quotations, dissimulation, out of context quotations and innuendoes back when Johnson first became a mayoral candidate in 2007? Given the state of the election, I'm surprised this wasn't used as a Bible for journalists to attack him!
As Hal points out, Livingstone's failure will have almost zero ramifications for Ed Miliband - he's considered as much a maverick by many across the political spectrum as was George Galloway, and if anything, I think Miliband will benefit from having, as far as possible kept a discreet distance from his candidate's antics.
So, what is the secret to Johnson's success?:
1/ He has kept a relatively Low profile throughout the campaign - A Savvy campaigner who since an unsuccessful bid for Parliament back in 1997 has an excellent track record, I think he quickly evaluated that Ken would do himself enough damage that his best bet was to keep quiet and leave discussion until the debate, where the visceral mutual loathing would do as much damage to Ken's campaign as to his. This lack of gaffes (and he has a track record here in terms of putting his foot in his mouth as anyone from the Liverpool area will testify) served only to magnify Ken's errors.
2/ The Labour Party managed to hang itself with a singularly unsuccessful and arguably the weakest candidate they could possibly have put in the field. Anyone who has lived under Ken and who worked in the Private Sector would have had no difficulty remembering Ken's record, which was to introduce huge tax rises with almost nothing in return except for a regular diet of Political propaganda, and procure contracts for his political cronies at, again , great expense to the taxpayer. His much-vaunted congestion charge merely had the effect of shifting commuter traffic outside the zone and made private motor transport the preserve of the rich. It is very hard to conceive of a single positive aspect to his period as mayor and suffice it to say, although I had fled London to the West of England by that point, the celebrations which followed Johnson's victory led to a less than productive Friday. Had Oona King been selected as candidate, given here popularity with Ethnic minorities and women, it would have been a tall order for Boris, even with a considerable cult 'Personal' following to overcome her.
3/ Although Boris has arguably been less effective than many hoped, he does possess a certain charm that sets him apart from the Coalition - various appearances on Have I Got News for You combined with a carefully cultivated image as a shambling , quasi-cartoonish character has done much to negate the 'Tory contamination' that has affected almost the entire rest of the coalition and gives him a certain cachet amongst the apolitical voters especially. This, combined with his relatively calm persona in the face of quite vicious hatchet jobs from the Left has done a great deal to provide a personal bounce factor which has negated the otherwise dire Poll ratings for the Tories. By contrast, as I have pointed out to Hal, Ken's ruthless 'coalition-building' and effective use of Private Sector workers as cash cows for his political projects has led to an 'Anti-Ken' coalition (No prizes for guessing I was a member) of people who vote for anyone but Ken. Although many have left London for pastures new, I'd say only the BNP has a more polarising impact than that man.
(Update 10pm London Time - the last few thousand ballots are having to be counted by hand due to a failure of the counting machines, Don't you just love modern technology?)