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Reasons why Boris as mayor isn’t so bad


5:30 am - May 3rd 2008

by Sunny Hundal    


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I try and be an optimist, so here goes…

1) Closeness of the race says to me that right-wing newspapers have little impact. Despite the combined endorsement of The Sun, Daily Mail, Telegraph, Times and Evening Boris, there was only 6% between them. I wish we had better exit polling in this country because I bet most voted for Boris on the basis of change, not al-Qaradawi or Lee Jasper of Hugo Chavez.

2) He started off from the traditional right Spectator crowd and gradually changed his mind on nearly everything. The Congestion Charge will remain; he’s also opposed to the Third runway; he backed off on repealing the smoking ban; embraced London’s multiculturalism; said he was proud of his Muslim heritage (compared to what he used to say); said he supported amnesty for long-term illegal migrants; is unlikely to try his new fangled and super-expensive bus programme.

3) Simon Heffer hates Boris Johnson.

4) He’ll make fantastic fodder for the next four years. Remember how many anti-Boris videos we got?

5) If he screws up, it’ll reflect badly on the Tories.

6) We might hear less whinging by the Evening Standard.

7) Lee Jasper won’t be back at least. Nor al-Qaradawi.

8) Henley might end up with a better MP. Though I’m not sure they deserve one.

Any other suggestions?

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Debates ,Mayor election

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Reader comments


No. Pretty much everything Ken set in motion will come to a grinding halt while he sorts his head out. Even if he eventually realises the job involves actually doing something we’ll have lost the momentum built up over the last eight years.

Still, Boris eh? LOL. Funny. Haha.

9) At least we aren’t in Rome.

10) The Mayor doesn’t have that much power.

Also, no comment on the BNP? Far more worrying than Boris.

It was the suburbs that swung it. Bexley & Bromely alone gave Boris over half of his majority – he won it by over 80,000 first preferences and his total majority was 140,000.

Boris’ wife Marina is of mixed Anglo-Indian heritage. She’s almost as mixed race as he is =)

It screws Socialist Action.

p.s. thabet has a point- the BNP result deserves separate scrutiny.

9. James Hamilton

“8) Henley might end up with a better MP. Though I’m not sure they deserve one.” Care to elaborate, Sunny?

Reasons why partisanship and optimism make politics curdle:

1) Closeness in an election race creates the impression that it is possible to overstate/understate the impact of particular sections of the media

2) Politicians who change their mind in order to gain support are less capable of leadership and are more liable to collapse when under pressure

3) For those who automatically puport to be on the left side of any debate, a split between right-wing commentators and conservative politicians ‘sanitises’ their brand and makes moderate conservatism more acceptable, re-opening the door for a more focused coalition of extremism

4) Dwelling on the past failures of your opponents allows consideration of current affairs to lapse into irrelevance and reduces proper scrutiny of policy

5) If he screws up, he screws up the lives of millions of people who live in and pass through London

6) You won’t hear less whinging from the Evening Standard, but you might end up harmonising with their chorus

7) Lee Jasper ought to be brought back – before a court

8) Henley is a constituency already overrepresented in the commentary of public life (Steve Wright, Philip Schofield etc)

1 – I voted for Boris for both sets of reasons. And was it that close?

Who would have thought even a few weeks ago that he would have won by 6%?
“I still think Ken has managed it” was a common sentiment expressed on the day!

That 6% difference, by the way, exactly the same as YouGov’s final poll: YouGov having been called “crazy” or even “biased” by the pro-Ken crew.
If nothing else, they are owed an apology!

2 – do you ever read the Spectator?

3 – fair enough

4 – maybe

5 – not that you’re partisan of course!

6 – no, I suspect they’ll keep whingeing – they have papers to sell

7 – but at (1) you suggested that wasn’t a legitimate reason for voting against Ken. I’m confused now.

8 – why? That just makes you sound bitter.

Although I am not a suburbanite (I live within zone 1), having been brought up in the suburbs (well, zone 3 anyway) I resent the idea that people who live there are not “real” Londoners.
If anything, for the blindingly obvious reason that they are most likely have to travel further to work, they have *greater* interest in transport issues – the area in which the mayor actually has most control!

cjcjc – Are you a goldfish with a short memory? I have never claimed to be non-partisan. This is a completely partisan site – it says so on our bloody ‘about’ page. Why do you even keep bringing up that moot point as if I’m here to be ‘fair and balanced’?? One would think a paid-for newspaper such as the Evening Standard should make more attempt to do that. Why not ask your friend Andrew Gilligan if he was balanced?

Yes I’ve flicked through it a few times. It annoys me. What’s your point?

I don’t think Jasper / Qaradawi were a legitimate reason to vote for Boris, but their non-return is a small mercy.

I have never claimed to be non-partisan.

From a post of only yesterday:

I try to remain party neutral

OK

What’s your point?

Well, the Spectator may be a “Tory” magazine, but it does oppose ID cards and 42 days…

What have you got against people who live in Henley?

The Spectator does NOT oppose 42 days – it supports the proposal

Sunny,

So you claim this is a completely partisan site (despite the caveats and qualifications on the About page), yet you also say you are party neutral – in the sense you aren’t party tribal (what the hell does that mean?)

I think you better sharpen up to avoid the obvious contradictions, or you will become a voice of sanity fairly and justifiably hoist by his own petard.

Either ‘Liberal Conspiracy’ is an ironic witticism (liberals can’t conspire, we are too open and honest about how, what and why we do what we do), or this is more do-do than liberal and truly a conspiracy against liberalism.

For your audience’s sake, please make your mind up.

Either ‘Liberal Conspiracy’ is an ironic witticism

Which it is.

I think you better sharpen up to avoid the obvious contradictions, or you will become a voice of sanity fairly and justifiably hoist by his own petard.

Look, its quite obvious. Unlike many political bloggers I’m not tied to a political party. I’ve voted Labour, Greens and Libdems in the past. I am not party tribal. This website brings together people passionate about all those three parties as well as those who hate them.

It is partisan in the sense that its by and for people who self-identify on the left – from the socialist left (David Osler) to the more liberal left (our Libdems). Unlike CIF, I don’t plan to have right-wingers on here for ‘balance’. I don’t plan to waste my own time arguing with other parts of the left in some big sectarian battle – instead I want to take on and defeat rightwing liberal and conservative views/values. Does that make it clearer?

Thanks for the clarification.

What you’ve said has always been quite obvious, but it seems you remain oblivious to the premise that one-dimensional left-centre-right divisions are unsatisfactory descriptions of political divisions, and that the consequence of accepting them is to fall into the retrogressive trap set by those you oppose.

Unless you can prioritise political principle over existing divisions you are as guilty of perpetuating and exacerbating those divisions as the people you complain about.

Understanding the meanings that reside in labels are important for this reason, otherwise cross-dressing would be the norm.

The choice is to support positions which apply universally and are inalienable, or to assume majority/minority conflicts are permanent and impossible to resolve, that extremism is inevitable, polemicism is to be encouraged and violent behaviour is ever acceptable (even when necessary).

Natural dynamism and intellectual innovation cannot be restrained by placing limits on our potential, so I fail to understand why you choose to be constrained by the obligations of self-identification and a label that reflects your personal circumstance and history.

From my own experience I can say that there are good and bad people within each segment of society and within each political party – so it is important to go beyond the labels and undermine the artifical associations they promote. LC and PP are capable of taking a lead on this, so I hope you don’t like being a tool for someone elses plans and are prepared to abandon your preconceptions.

Freedom from prejudice is difficult to escape and nobody is immune, which is why peace-making is rarer than war-winning.

“Also, no comment on the BNP? Far more worrying than Boris” (thabet)

I don’t think so. Their mayoral candidate got a smaller share of the vote than in 2004 (less than 3%). On the London Assembly, they have gained one assembly seat by going from just under the 5% threshold to just over it. There is absolutely no groundswell in their direction.

PZT,

That’s true, but they have crossed the 5% boundary. They were close before, but now have the platform, the salary and the expenses. There is also a history of racially motivated violence going up after BNP victories. The problems haven’t happened yet.

xD.

thomas:
but it seems you remain oblivious to the premise that one-dimensional left-centre-right divisions are unsatisfactory descriptions of political divisions

From my own experience I can say that there are good and bad people within each segment of society and within each political party – so it is important to go beyond the labels and undermine the artifical associations they promote.

Let me explain this one too. I have on many occasions challenged left-wing orthodoxy, most forcefully around race-relations and religion. As many know I’m quite opposed to the Respect and left-list view on these matters and articulated in the Guardian why I disagree with many lefties on how they view race-relations should proceed.

So its not that I’m against challenging orthodoxies that fit into labels. I’m for more free trade than I am for protectionism and am for freer markets than a communist state.

But politically, how I view the world is encapsulated by the values of the liberal-left. I know this because when I read blogs by the Conspirators and our regular guests, I find myself nodding my head in agreement, and when I read right-wing blogs I feel my blood pressure rising. Or laugh at their comedy value. That doesn’t mean I only read leftie blogs nor that I agree with everything there. But I know they share my assumptions about the world.

What that means is that I can more easily form alliances with people on the left if we want to do something. I go with left-wingers to demonstrations on Burma not right-wingers because they don’t do that. It also means if we want to build coalitions to change society for the better, it has to be with others on the left – it wont be the right.

I also read a lot of blogs, though I choose to avoid contributing to those I strongly object to (which is probably why you can find me going on…and on here). When I find myself nodding in agreement or starting to spit cake crumbs at the screen I ask myself why by deconstructing the progression of the arguments made.

On balance I would find it hard to say whether I tend to symapthise more with the right or left-wing stryles as both do occasionally make good points and I think it is more helpful to pick and choose on merit and consistency.

When translating personal preference into policy, however, we don’t get to choose who we form coalitions with – it is a matter of agreeing and of working together – so challenging orthodoxies is less important than understanding them and recreating them in more accurate fashions.

By automatically assuming right or left-wing labels can be applied (where is the centre wing in all this? – I have to ask: is it a redundant label? not that I count myself as on it) and then by using them, we effectively limit the ability of creating coalitions with those we partially agree, which also prevents us from addressing our arguments to those who may be swung by them: the effect of using ‘wing’ terminology is inherently conservative and out-dated – it just reinforces existing divisions, making coalescent agreement less likely.

In practice this means I find myself more sympathetic towards the LibDems and the very occasional Green, thogh I find it impossible to ally with either while their members fall for the retrograde trick of using left and right in self-identification. I was positive towards Blair’s ‘big tent’ while it tried to escape traditional conservative Labour theology (until ’99), though he was transparently losing on personal and party levels, and I force myself to remain open towards the potenial of accepting Cameron (which is the current first alternative) as well as using abstention as a positive choice.

As a result I find myself embarrassed by the thought that I am closer to the mainstream than I ever considered likely, though, I guess, even contributing to these discussions puts me in the tiny group of activated minds (too vocal to be a member of the silent majority).

If we want to change society for the better it has to be in concert with others. Picking and choosing who is allowed to join in (on any basis) is not only anti-democratic elitism at work, but prejudiced towards (those previously mentioned) preconceptions and prejudiced against success.

If we want change then the fight is against passivity, not against ideas with which we disagree, since good ideas will always win out over bad ideas in the long run.

The taking part IS more important than the winning, because by participating we all end up as winners.

“Unlike CIF, I don’t plan to have right-wingers on here for ‘balance’. I don’t plan to waste my own time arguing with other parts of the left in some big sectarian battle – instead I want to take on and defeat rightwing liberal and conservative views/values.”

You want to defeat an idea without ever debating with someone who holds that idea?

I cannot help but imagine a website full of people telling each other how right they are. That is not the type of debate that ever leads anywhere good.

Or am I misunderstanding something?

This is, amongst other things, a place for liberals to talk about how to defeat the right. We are quite capable of talking amongst ourselves and at different times to the others and at other times to undecideds.

xD.

Or am I misunderstanding something?

We can read them if necessary. If they get too powerful then we’ll take on their arguments.

Dave Cole summed it up above nicely.


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