Election “Fever” (or should that be “torpor”?)

God, it’s been a month since I posted anything substantial here, but I’ve been busy elsewhere and doing other stuff, so…

The local elections are not looking all that rosy for Gordon Brown. and he’s admitted as much, though he couldn’t really do anything else. I am unsurprised. These elections have come at an awkward time, with the banks still jittery and food and fuel prices causing no little concern. The rather distracting argument over income tax rates haven’t helped either. While the government struggles, the Conservatives look smug and claim this as some sort of ringing endorsement of the Cameron project, whatever that might be. But is it? I’m not sure that they have made the major breakthroughs in the North they wanted, though they have made some progress. There is no sense that the nation is crying out for a major change in the way that happened in the mid 1990’s. And that, I’m afraid, is all to do with Cameron himself. For all the shiny presentation, Cameron doesn’t resonate with people.

Also, at this point, no one is really sure how the election for London mayor is going to go at this stage. There is still a distinct possibility that Boris could come out of this with a new job. A win for Johnson would be a great coup for the moon-faced one and also would be seen as a blow for Brown.

Yesterday’s Guardian was pretty hilarious, devoting a vast proportion of the G2 to asking a lot of avowedly left-leaning people why they thought Boris would be rubbish. You can imagine the replies. Charlie Brooker’s was probably the most concise of all: “Don’t toss London to a right-wing buffoon, no matter how funny you find his bumbling persona.” Concise perhaps, but also a little unfair. Johnson is neither moron nor buffoon, though it seems to suit him to appear that way much of the time. The fact that the dear ol’ Grauniad has reached the level of hysteria it has is that he’s looking a serious bet to win, and that they’re worried about it.

But while Boris may not be a moron, nor indeed a bumbling imbecile, significant doubts exist as to whether he’s up to the job of running London. For us in the provinces it may seem like a marginal issue, but it’s not. Whatever we may think of it, London is one of the world’s major cities: a major economic and cultural focus. Making sure that London “works” has knock on effects for the whole country, even if it is something as prosaic as how to travel there from anywhere else in the country and get around once you are there. And it’s at this point that, whatever his sheen of rather ramshackle erudition or chummy ineffectual schtick might suggest, Boris Johnson comes up short. Does he have the ability to handle a job of this size and complexity with the tact, diplomacy and finesse required? In a word: no.

Ken Livingstone has dropped some bollocks in the past and there are questions about some of his practices but, in the end, he is at least fundamentally competent. Paddick is simply an also-ran. Perhaps we should hope that the newt-lover manages to get his third term, even as we hold our noses. It may be the most sensible thing that could happen.


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