London Mayoral Election: Boris is back
He is ,unmistakably, the most-recognizable face in London: a portly frame with characteristically-unkempt blond thatch; the cyclist who promotes the virtues of the age-old mode of transport by example, not just by preaching – by cycling to work every day by ditching both chauffer and limousine; the man adored by the Londoners for who he is, not for what he represents; the man who speaks his mind regardless of inevitable consequences even if they have the potential to be instantly interpreted as gaffes ; the fighter who never shies away, if a critic confronts him in the street - or on his way to work on the bike - for what he believes in.
As expected, Boris Johnson, the father of Boris-Bike scheme – the cycles you can hire for a nominal fee in the City of London – warped the nationwide trend of electoral disaster for the Conservative party and made himself the odd-man out, when the party he represents had an intense electoral haemorrhage elsewhere in Thursday’s local elections. The voters in every part of Britain delivered a decisive blow against the ruling coalition, made up of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
Boris Johnson, the Eaton-and-Oxford educated former journalist, won the mayoral race for London for the second time by defeating Ken Livingstone, his Labour rival and the veteran left-wing politician, by just over 60000 votes on Friday, exactly as recent opinion polls consistently predicted. Although, the margin was much narrower than the pre-election forecasts – 6-point-lead – the victory is very significant for quite a few reasons.
The mayoral election, right from the beginning, was all about the personalities of the two main candidates and not necessarily about their policies – Boris from the Conservative party and Ken from the Labour party. Both were down-to-earth individuals despite being at diametrically opposing ends in the square of politics.
Both loved to be addressed by their first names and showed very little enthusiasm for the pageantry – and titles- associated with such an important position, while leading one of the most important cities in the world: you hardly hear them being addressed as Mr Jonson or Mr Livingstone, let alone Mr Mayor or Lord Mayor, in public.
Boris Johnson, the father of four who survived at least one extra-marital scandal, is someone who never hesitates to do what he likes, which range from yawning to show boredom to swearing at journalists for bothering him with barrages of questions. He never feared the consequences of his actions or potential political damage when he felt that he was being cornered.
The victory of Boris Johnson, which appears to be the only consolation for the battered Conservatives, has added another headache for David Cameron, the Prime Minister, in the long run. There are a significant number of people within the party who openly speak in favour of the former as the next party leader; they think Mr Cameron is not Conservative enough to carry forward the traditional Conservative values. The bookies, meanwhile, have slashed the odds of such an eventuality to 4-1. Mr Johnson, on his part, did very little to dampen the development within the party, when he declared that he is ‘avowedly Conservative,’ after the victory speech.
After the triumph he admitted that there would be challenges, especially when the country is officially in recession – the double dip one. He is fully aware of the need of the stimulants for the growth and is not prepared to abandon his conservative instincts, most notably the tax cuts and reduced public spending, in pursuing it. The challenge is the process of achieving it without upsetting the very Londoners who voted him in.
He promised to introduce automated tube trains to the London underground network. In addition, he is planning to introduce a new fleet of Routemaster buses to the existing bus network in London, while taking the advantage of relatively small number of private vehicles that enter the City during rush hours, due to congestion charge levied on motorists at every single entry point. In order to come down hard on organized crime, he is going to recruit more police officers to put on the beat.
Mr Johnson has four years to deliver on his promises, if he does not pursue a bigger parliamentary ambition on a different trajectory, while being true to his word. In the meantime, he may be forced to keep the temptation at bay, even an opportunity arises for him to pose a challenge against the prime minister.
- Asian Tribune –