03 May 2008

Posh Suburbs Swing It For Boris.

A few weeks ago, I would have thought a million votes would have been enough for Livingstone to win. I was wrong, it wasn't. But I think it says a lot about...
the man, that he loses having increased his number of votes from just 750,000 in 2000 when he was first elected to over a million today - how Labour wishes it could gain votes like this after so long in power. When you consider the state of Labour nationally and the Evening Standard campaign against him, it was remarkable that Livingstone could still come so close. This, of course is little consolation. We have lost a great man to politics.

I am amazed that 1.1 million people in Greater London could vote for Boris. Of course Livingstone won the majority of votes in inner London - but it wasn't enough.

The life of these Londoners is about to get a lot more difficult. If you live in the suburbs and drive into London, you may soon save a few pounds in congestion charge fees, but congestion is destined to get worse. Those who live in London will find the roads will get more dangerous, more congested and their lungs more polluted as Boris favours motorists over pedestrians.

Of course, the damage that Boris will do will take time to show through and will be fairly unnoticed at the beginning - but sure enough cutbacks in police, transport, cultural and environmental budgets will be felt. Boris's waffle on crime will be exposed - or will it? I doubt the London Evening Standard will hold Boris to account in any way. At least with Livingstone - if he as much as sneezed in the wrong direction - we could be guaranteed to know about it.

Well, all this is sour grapes I know, Boris has won the 20% of Londoners votes he needed to win and Ken didn't. Ken was magnanimous, I find it difficult to be so.

Those over 60 who wanted 24 hour freedom passes will be dissappointed. I imagine a lot of them didn't realise a vote for Boris has denied them this benefit but it has. And over the years expect all those who currently have free travel to find it eroded by eager Tories keen to cut this 'stealth tax'.

I was particularly disappointed in Brian Paddick and the Lib Dems - what a poor candidate and their 9% share was more than they deserved. A better Lib Dem would have highlighted the distance between Tory policy and their own rather than pretending both Livingstone and Boris were equidistant in a vain hope to maintain Lib Dem seats in the rural south of England.

This election is lost and along with it goes my hope of things improving in this country. Livingstone was my political hero and demonstration that Left politics can be good, efficient and electorally successful. That has now gone and along with it my interest in politics. I know I shouldn't be so downbeat - but it is how I feel at the moment. Livingstone was the best politician of his generation but in the end it wasn't enough to beat the Tory press lies. This is a sad day for democracy, how this country yearns for a free press and a press that tells the truth as a rule rather than as an exception.


  1. All the fucking scum at the Evening Standard can gloat now, but their days are still numbered. Fucking old twats. They'll all be dead in 20 years.

  2. Yet again you call an election completely wrong.

    You aren't very good at this politics game are you?

    Too many non-Tories are celebrating Boris' win. You need to think about that.

  3. Good points. Given a national vote of 24% it would have been amazing if Ken had beaten Boris. He made a very gracious speech as well (and to be fair so did Boris). Given that Boris said very little in the campaign to mark him out from Ken (apart from the Routemaster and not hitting the gas-guzlers) it will be interesting to see what tack he will take re council tax. Livingstone spent virtually all his tax take on police and transport. Will Boris continue with Ken's policies or jump back to Thatcherism. If the latter, he will get in a right mess.

  4. Anon: I have right from the start said it was going to be tough for Ken, especially with the media against him and Boris's innocent persona. I still believe that if turnout had risen above 50% then Ken would have scraped it. There must be a lot of people in central London wishing they had turned out. It is a pity we don't have the two round system like they do in France. In a straight run-off between Ken and Boris I think many would have switched to Ken. I will make this prediction. Ken will be the most populat person in London in a few years.

  5. Are you packing in the political blogging now, Neil?

    It'll be a bit disappointing for you if Boris turns out to be a reasonably good Mayor, I mean he is a pompous twat and a bully but he is (apparently) clever enough to get people to sort stuff out for him.

    We will see. And those over-60s who may or may not lose free travel, clearly they are happy to pay a £1 to ride on a bus as a quid pro quo for being able to walk the streets safely.

    Ken was pretty good on the whole transport side but pretty fucking useless on the crime bit.

  6. Mark: And what exactly has Boris proposed to do about crime? As far as I could see all he promised was hot air. At least Ken had concrete proposals to spend £78m on youth services to give kids something useful to do.

    Boris says he is going to cut council tax but since police pay is nearly all the budget, the only way to do that is cut police numbers. How will that help cut crime?

    I suppose since the Tories have convinced people crime stats are meaningless that when they start shooting up (after falling for ten years) it won't matter.

  7. I am contemplatng packing it all in, because when someone as good as Ken loses an election it is very very depressing.

    Nobody will notice much difference with Boris at first except that the Evening Standard will give him glowing coverage and make things seem better even as they are being slowly dismantled. It will take the Tories time to ruin what Ken has achieved but worse than that the pioneering bravery of Ken has gone - there will be no cycle motorways, no reduction in congestion, no expansion of free and cheap travel. No beach by the Thames, no prioritising people over cars. No improvement in air quality and encouragement of cultural diversity and tolerance. To top off my misery, even the bastard BNP sneaked a seat, no doubt due to high turnout in the Tory boroughs. Thanks again to the Daily Mail group and it's anti-immigrant stance. Remember it was the Tories and big business that brought the Nazis to power in Germany (because they prefered them to the socialists). Now we have the BNP on the GLA and it is all down to the pro-Tory media spreading lies to split the working class along race lines. They have no shame.

  8. Also, it is really frustrating that just when the Mayor gets power over housing, we lose the only person who would use that power. Sad sad day.

  9. I know you're feeling down and against my best wishes I did feel a little sympathy for Ken. I dislike him but he did work hard. But the struggle goes on for all of us and it would be sad for you to stop blogging as you suggested recently. When you are out of power is when you most need to be galvanised, so don't quit on us!

    Besides, you're the only lefty that puts up with my banter :-)

    So what did you think of Barnbrook's excellent speech?

  10. R&W: I've been too depressed to listen to Barnbrook's speech. Maybe some other time. I really despair that someone like yourself can support the BNP. It is bad enough that people support the Tories. What do you think Barnbrook will deliver for his £50k pay package? I suppose 1 BNP member is not much more of a waste than 2 UKIP and 2 'One London' layabouts.

  11. Leftys eh? Don't you just love 'em? So your'e implying that those who voted for Boris are wrong and this is a sad day for democracy? What planet are you from?
    Ken Livingstone your political hero? Christ you set you sights low don't you. Just another ex-trot ousted by those who really matter (the electorate) but of course in your world the proles do tend to get in the way of a good political theory. Maybe mass extermination is the answer and then you and your ilk can carry on living in a perfect world merrily reading the Guardian on the cart to the tractor factory. Figures are up comrade for this month keep up the good work.
    It has to be said that you know nothing of Boris Johnsons policies so how can you possibly know what he has planned?
    Hey why not go out and get one of those funny little badges saying "I didn't vote Tory". That will get them going those horrible Tories.

  12. Johnson voters may not know his policies but I actually have a pretty good idea - which explains why I am so depressed.

    I do not blame the electorate, I blame the lies of the press. Even you must admit that the London press have been more biased than North Koreas - 500+ ES billboards in London saying 'Ken is corrupt', 'Boris is in the lead' every day for 6 months, it must have an impact. What chance did Ken have? This is not a fair way to conduct elections - it would disgrace a banana republic. The Evening Standard is corrupt - the Daily Mail will surely get that new Metro - tube contract as payment from Boris and return the favour by continually telling eveyone how wonderful things are under the Tories - democracy eh?

  13. Crumbs of comfort:

    (1) Not only did Ken get more votes than last time in absolute terms, even his SHARE of the vote (on 1st preferences) was fractionally up. The Tory increase in share of the vote came mostly from UKIP and Lib Dems. (See my blog for the stats.)

    (2) UKIP (the only "respectable" party still opposing the congestion charge) was totally wiped out.

    (3) The BNP mayoral candidate did even worse than last time. It is a pity they just scraped through the threshold for an assembly seat, but their increased share was miniscule, from just under 5% to just over 5%. There is clearly no groundswell towards them.

    (4) The Evening Standard's circulation continues to plummet.

    Neil, I share your sense of despair today but do not give up.

  14. PZT, Cheers. Like you say Ken gained 200,000 votes and increased his vote share - sadly, Boris did even better. Just imagine what Ken could have got if we had had a fair press? Still if 'if and ands were pots and pans' and all that. Cheers anyway, real pain about the BNP scrapping that seat, Hopefully Barnbrook will show people what a real idiot he is. I am hoping anyway and also hoping Boris doesn't reck too much of London.

  15. "The BNP mayoral candidate did even worse than last time. It is a pity they just scraped through the threshold for an assembly seat, but their increased share was miniscule, from just under 5% to just over 5%."

    Four percent up to five point six perent. Increase of 121,600 votes. Not bad considering the smears.

  16. Neil, it's only taken people eleven years to wake up and realise the damage Gordon Brown and Labour has done to the UK.

    You can console yourself in the knowledge that the people of London didn't want the expansion of free bus travel as they know they end up paying for it!

    PS How do you know the BNP "bastard" was elected in Tory boroughs and not by traditional Labour voters?

    The elections suggest that voters want Labour to address "Daily Mail issues" rather than ignore them!

  17. A great day for democracy. The peple have spoken and Nu Labour and McBroon got the kicking they so richly deserved. Robbing the low paid on Wednesday's pay slip was a master stroke by Nu Labour. I doubt whether Nu Lab will now strart listening. They are far too arrogant in their control freak mindset.

    Well done Boris for turfing that odious little shit out of office. Now get on with it and turn off the money tap to all those waste of space ethnic minority pressure groups Red Ken supported.

  18. Neil

    I pubished this in my blog, but mine's a bit crap and no-one reads it, so I thought I may as well send my 'homage to Ken' to try and make you feel better. Read on if you've got the energy. I tried to do a 'Homage to Ken, a Loonier' play on words 'cos of the Orwellian resonance of a right wing git beating the brave and honourable leftwinger by dint solely of greater material resource. But I couldn't make it work, so didn't.


    Homage to Ken and his ilk

    There’ve already been lots of words of praise for Ken, his devotion to London, his courage in standing up first to Thatcherism and then to New Labour. A lot of the coverage in Labour blogs is sad, in an ‘end of era’ kind of way, and tied up with the general bad night at the polls. This may be understandable as Ken leaves the main stage (for good?), but I think there needs to be a bit more celebration of what he, and other leftwing Labour leaders of his generation, leave as their legacy – a legacy which brought Labour votes on Thursday

    Ken is the last personal representative of a great success story in the British Labour movement, and this success lives on in areas across the country. It lived on, even on a bleak Thursday night/Friday for lots of us, in places like Liverpool, Manchester and Oxford, and we need to take note of these success stories and why, in part at least, they happened.

    Up and down the country, in London, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool (with a twist), Glasgow, the 1980s saw the development of the ‘New Urban Left’ as a response both to Thatcherism but also to ‘old style’ Labourism, It’s important to remember, when there’s such a tendency to take issue with New Labour for betraying Labour’s roots, that in the 1960s and early 1970s local Labour parties could be pretty awful – closed shops to all but a (male) elite, at a time when local parties really did describe themselves as ‘full’ to would-be joiners, tied to the representation of a narrow set of interests (the white, working class) and without the capacity to look out to a fast changing world of, for example, demands for women’s rights, immigration and the need for housing equity, new types of deprivation and worklessness emerging on new housing estates.

    We shouldn’t forget that Ken joined the Labour party as early as 1971, when it was deeply unfashionable. There misty have been plenty of his leftwing friends who asked him what the hell he was up to joining such a reactionary force. Other brave souls took up the idea throughout the 1970s that the Labour party could be a force for good at local level, but only if it started to look outwards.

    The to the success of the New Urban Left was precisely this – they got the party (often after the necessary internal struggles against the right in the party) to look outwards, to recognise that the Labour party in itself didn’t have all the answers, and that to combat the injustices of the new Thatcherism is was necessary to create anti-hegemonic alliances (and yes, I bet Ken did read his Gramsci) with organisations and movements beyond the ‘normal’ horizons of the party.

    As Ken himself said later: ‘There’s a broad assumption that we only talk to party members, we only deal with trade union leaders. We don’t deal with people who haven’t been organised out there…..Well, you just can’t work like that…We’ve got to prove our goodwill and integrity to the groups that have looked at us in the past and decided we didn’t have any. (Ken Livingstone, in Wainwright 1987: 105)

    The press is full in the last few days of Ken’s arrogance in later years – and he did make mistakes in the media glare of the mayoralty – but it’s important to recognise the very humility of the sentiment here – the party, as represented by Ken, is only a part of the struggle. I bet he still believes that.

    And Ken and his new breed of leaders – David Blunkett in Sheffield, Graham Stringer in Manchester - were successful, measurably so. While some of the local economic development stuff that was enacted as a direct confrontation to the new ‘rules’ of Thatcherism was, with hindsight, never going to punch far enough above its weight to make big differences, the policies then regarded as ‘loonie left’ by the media have quietly become mainstream now. Does any Council not have an equal opportunities in employment policy now? Would local action on climate change seem sensible now if it’ hadn’t been for the trailblazing act local, think global anti-nuclear actions of the 1980s. Well, that’s difficult to prove, but I know there’s plenty of more mature activities from the 1980s who are rightly proud of what they achieved. Indeed, for many the oppositionalism and radicalism pf the 1980s remains the stuff of memory, more so than the national swing to Labour in the mid 1990s.

    At national party level, the talk of the mid-1990s was about modernisation both of the party and the country when it came into government. It’s easy to overlook that, at local government level, this had already happened. What became the requirement to work in partnership with the private and public sectors had already been happening for yeas in more progressive Council areas – it’s just that they were thought of as alliances rather than partnerships (and what really is the difference in partnerships without a legal entity). The key difference was that at local level it was being done properly, as part of a political vision, rather than as a piece of neo-liberal ‘modernisation’ by stealth in the cause of electoral success.

    Perhaps the key problem at national level in the party was simply that the top leadership (perhaps with the exception of David Blunkett) simply didn’t ‘get’ the good stuff that was happening in local government during the Tory years. (The maybe gentler, more reasoned ‘modernisation’ kick started by John Smith might have done so, but his untimely death meant that link was broken, but I was overseas in those years so I’m not too sure).

    If you look at Tony Blair, for example, his brief stint around the local party was marked by absolutely no involvement with the ‘new urban left’; rather it was characterised by a desire to move on past the limitations of the local as soon as possible, and then take revenge on those who had limited his rise to power. Indeed I remember John Stewart, stalwart academic defender of all things local government, saying at a conference once that, when he met Blair early on in his leadership and told him that local government didn’t exist as a constitutional entity in its own right and could be changed at the whim of the centre (unlike other European countries), Blair’s eyes lit up as he considered the possibilities for removing local politics hassles from the equation. Similarly, Hilary Armstrong came to the local government ministry with a fixed idea, based on her time in the North East where the New Urban Left had less success, of the need to remove authority and power from local elected politicians. Hazel Blears, despite a more subtle rhetoric, is no lover of local politics, believing it is all as inward looking as it might have been in early 1980s Salford, the last time she touched it.

    But Ken and his more enlightened colleagues did ‘the hard yards’, first seeing off those who wanted to remain onward looking, persuading their colleagues to look outwards to the formation of appropriate strategic alliances with other progressive forces, and above all remembering that politics starts and ends with the local – it’s locals that vote, not modernisation agendas.

    25 years later – Labour parties which embraced this new local socialism are benefiting directly, and those that didn’t are suffering. The best example in my neck of the woods is Manchester. Electorally, it’s stood up to the tribulations of national government unpopularity because it’s been able, on the basis of 25 years’ tradition of openness (first with Graham Stringer but now with people he still calls colleagues/comrades rather than local party underlings), to brand itself as Manchester Labour – different and better in voters’ eye to the national party. Similarly, Liverpool has done well because it has - belatedly in this case because of Militant – got its act together though not yet enough to take power. Places in the very same area, which didn’t sufficiently go through that process of opening out, got a good kicking on Thursday. In the end, traditions go deep, and I’m pretty certain there’s a correlation between whether or not they sorted themselves 25 years ago, and whether or not they did well on Thursday.

    So why did Oxford buck the trend by taking four seats sand kicking the Lib Dems from power. Well, I don’t know the detail but I bet its because the people who do the Labour stuff there are regarded as good people who look outwards to what their constituents are after, proud of their record on social justice campaigning, and have therefore been able to ‘sell themselves’ as something different from bad old New Labour. I bet they’ve lost count of the times people on the doorstep have said ‘Well I’m not happy with Labour nationally, but….’

    The challenge is for Labour in other areas, where we weren’t resiliently local enough, to get the hang of what Ken and his red comrades taught us – not, as the media would have it – arrogance and spin, but a certain humility mixed with pride about what we’re about. It might be 25 years too late in some places, but it’s still worth listening to what Ken and colleagues have to say – perhaps more than the new electoral machine apparatchniks who talk about gaining votes through the bombardment of the electorate with simplistic messages. Let’s do it properly.

    Thanks Ken.

    Ref Hilary Wainwright (1987) Labour: A Tale of Two Parties (London: Hogarth Press)

  19. What a loser you are.

    You have learnt nothing, Santayana and Hegel were right in your case.

  20. Ken lost because he rejoined the War & Torture Party and supported Ian Blair's policy of summary execution on suspicion of having mongolian eyes.

    And when it comes to the Freedom Pass... if you need a pass... you're not free!

  21. " When you consider the state of Labour nationally and the Evening Standard campaign against him, it was remarkable that Livingstone could still come so close."

    Even more remarkable considering how sleazy, corrupt and divisive his administration has been.

    "congestion is destined to get worse. Those who live in London will find the roads will get more dangerous, more congested"

    Why? Boris has said he will not scrap the charge. Scrapping Ken's flawed western extension would improve congestion. The extension severely blunts the price mechanism for those inside it who want to drive into the original zone.

    "Of course, the damage that Boris will do will take time to show through and will be fairly unnoticed at the beginning - but sure enough cutbacks in police, transport, cultural and environmental budgets will be felt. "

    So would the tax cuts. I really wish you were right, but the truth is there will be no cuts save for the most sleazy, wasteful elements of Ken's profligacy. The Mayor's generosity with our money is likely to increase less quickly under Boris than it would have under Ken. There will be fewer (hopefully no) corrupt wodges of cash being handed out to groups to reward them for praising the Mayor and having the word 'black' in their name. But real spending cuts and giving the money back to those it was confiscated from? I wish...

    "Posh Suburbs Swing It For Boris. "

    We are allowed to vote, too. Perhaps that's what Vivienne Westwood meant when she said the result was proof of it being a "sham election"?

    Almost everyone I know has been dying to see the smug grin wiped off Ken's face. The only people who weren't are Labour members. So many non-political people have voted Boris simply to get up the backs of Guardian types. I was so happy when he beat the corrupt snivelling little creep.