Was Ken brought down by Gordon Brown’s poisonous effect on the Labour Party? Was it the £25 4×4 congestion charge? Was it a backlash against his embracing of London’s diversity or his meeting Yusuf Al-Qaradawi? Was it his support for Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez or his failure to get the tube running properly? Was it his support for the corrupt Sir Ian Blair, or the street crime which spiralled out of control, despite the figures the Metropolitan Police lazily fell back on? Worse still was it Brian Paddick’s failure to direct his supporters’ second votes to go to Ken?
Boris Johnson isn’t a fan of ethnic minorities, homosexuals, poor people or London for that matter, yet London has just voted him Mayor. London elected someone with the right attitude and experience for two terms, then reflected and decided “he’s been in the job too long” and supplanted him with a bumbling oaf of a man, who’s never prioritised London’s affairs as an MP, and doesn’t support measures such as the congestion charge which have already been proven to improve London’s environment. Seems a bit bonkers doesn’t it? But whilst extremely upsetting and worrying, it was actually quite predictable.
The diversity agenda quite simply doesn’t operate in a straight line. Livingstone came in with the creation of the job in 2000 promising genuine change, and he delivered. More than anything he set about breaking the disproportionate privilege previously only held by the white middle-class – the funding of ethnic minority groups, the congestion charge, the promotion of ethnic and subcultural events like Pride by City Hall – Trafalgar Square has never been busier, more educational or diverse – these have all acted to raise the profile and power of London’s minorities. Except a) now there’s more of a level playing field they’re all flexing their muscles in ways previously unthinkable and b) the middle classes will never overwhelmingly support the championing of policies, approaches or attitudes which act in others’ best interests.
So Ken was in large measure a victim of his own success. But the Guardian is also right I think – a perception of arrogance, being above what the voters might want – also did him in. Was the Oliver Finegold affair his Monica Lewinksy moment? Maybe, in that it didn’t reflect badly on him in his job, but was a distraction he could have done without, and:
(whilst) every success brought acclaim (it) also seemed to erode his sense of humility. The line between self-belief and arrogance can be a thin one. Self-belief was a essential component of the construct Livingstone had so successfully sold to the public over almost 30 years. Arrogance, descending all too frequently into shows of petulance, only served to degrade it.
That’s a really strong analysis I think. He was right to battle the disgusting Evening Standard, but it was a pointless battle. He was right to bid for the Olympics, but London wanted to hear he wanted it for community and sport, not merely for the development money (which was, after all, a prime priority for his position). He may have championed gay rights with his partnership register (the precursor to civil partnerships), but his open support of Islamist cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi compromised a key component of his support from the gay community. Was he right in saying the right wing tabloids didn’t represent Al-Qaradawi’s views fairly? Probably. But he also refused to acknowledge that the cleric might have misrepresented his real views to him too. And then he really backed the wrong horse with Sir Ian Blair (whom Boris now needs to fire from chairing the Metropolitan Police Authority, as promised). Supporting a Metropolitan Police Commissioner who remained more concerned with saving his own neck following his corrupt attempt to block the investigation into the Met’s murder of Jean Charles de Menezes was just bananas. With people’s experience of street, knife and gun crime escalating out of control in Ken’s last term, he could then never say he was the Mayor of law and order.
It’s the worst result we could have expected – London even now has the BNP in the Assembly. I hope at least that a London which has become more political than at any time since the 80s will still have the courage to ignore the Evening Standards of this world and hold this new bunch forcefully to account. But given how stupid certain elements in London have been this last week – voting for an unqualified, elitist, celebrity (George W anyone?) idiot because it’s “time for a change” – things don’t look positive. At least the 2012 Olympics, which most of us believe will be a shambles will be presided over by a shambles. Just don’t forget what this man really thinks of diversity, Ken’s championing of which was chiefly responsible for winning the bid and putting London back on the map: