Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Prediction time

In a few hours that minority of Londoners who can be arsed will be heading to the polls to decide which of two untrustworthy scoundrels will be entrusted with the stewardship of the city for the next four years. While I ponder the least humiliating combination of futile protest Xs I could make, let me make my prediction now so you can point and laugh if I'm wrong.

Boris Johnson to win by around 4%.

This is, as Peter Snow would say when waving his swingometer around, just for fun. I derive a certain anoraky amusement from politics and I do like a bit of a bet, so here are my reasons. If you don't share these interests, you will probably have stopped reading already; if you do, remember – this is what I think will happen, not necessarily what I want to happen.

1. Labour isn't too popular, which will drag Livingstone's support down just because he's the representative of the ruling party, no matter how much he downplays the fact.

2. Then think of all the people Ken has pissed off (too long to list here), his rather dodgy associates and the blind eye he's turned to their activities. Plus, and this always works against the incumbent, he's done things that people don't like (I mean doing things will always cost you some votes, irrespective of their merits). Now remember that for all those people who voted for him in the past and are now voting for someone else, he has to attract new voters. Where will they come from? There will be some who get off their backsides and vote because they can't abide Boris. But enough to win? Surely not.

My feeling is that whatever doubts people have about Boris, it's a suspicion. Whereas those who think Ken's actions have made him unsuited to the job are deciding on the basis of a certainty. When it comes to a suspicion vs a certainty, the latter is going to win out.

3. The bizarre way Ken and his supporters have been fighting their corner. Rather than focussing on experience and competence (his two strongest suits), they've been arguing about virtually everything but. Polly Toynbee's column from yesterday is a classic of the how-not-to-make your case genre, containing as it does virtually all the reasons why Livingstone will lose.

Complaints about Boris the ('effette and frivolous') toff and other things no one gives a toss about; arguments that all the money that's gone missing is scarely worth worrying your little heads about (what's a few million between taxpayers?) and even if it was knowingly misappropriated, Ken didn't benefit personally so don't blame him for the supporting the people responsible; claims that greedy idiots in the City like Ken (they should, given his indulgence of them) so hurrah for him.

4. Snarling and whinging. Then thereare the sneers and jibes at anyone who crosses the Lizard King, even pollsters whose reputation and long-term viability depends on being impartial are biased, you see. (Strangely, this reminds me of nothing so much as Lee Atwater and Karl Rove): the claim that if Boris wins it's only the wrong sort of Londoners who are voting - "Boris Johnson campaigns mainly in the rich white suburbs" - as opposed to inner city areas like Westminster and Notting Hill where oppressed, poor, minority types like Polly Toynbee live. And, in any case, even if the inner cities fail to vote in sufficient numbers for Ken, it's only because the Evening Standard has been running hostile stories.

The irony of complaining about a partisan campaign by a newspaper in a column in a newspaper which has been running a series of save the Newt articles is glaring enough to be rather annoying. But more annoying by far is the idea that if St Ken somehow loses it will be a martyrdom at the hands of the Evil Standard.

I've mentioned before that media types tend to vastly over-estimate their own importance. In this case Toynbee even tries to have it both ways (arguing that the Standard isn't that important but will still cause vulnerable and impressionable Londoners to make the wrong decision). Clearly the Standard is out to get Ken. Clearly it's for Johnson. (Clearly, it is also utter shite, though that's scarcely relevant here). However, I doubt very much that a paper which is losing sales massively to the freesheets is going to swing the election. Rather, if the Standard does for Ken, it's because it's picked up on things he should be held to account for and stuff that real voters - even the horrid middle-class, non-inner city-dwelling whites – care about. (Remember too that stuff about possible corruption has been widely picked up on, weak stuff like some bloke you've never heard of doesn't like Ken, stays firmly between the largely unread pages of the Standard). Newspapers are more likely to reflect public opinion than to shape it.

But this whinging that the debate is being conducted on terms you don't like has characterised the Livingstone camp from the off. And I think, ultimately, it will cost him. Ah well.

So, if I'm right, my dismay at this insufferable charlatan's victory will be matched only by my delight that this ghastly little man has been handed his cards. If I'm wrong, then vice versa.

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Blogger dominic said...


I really think that your utter inability, or lack of willingness, ever to take sides or coherent indecisions is the main reason you are a confirmed bachelor (he writes as one himself).

I can just imagine you, having walked down the aisle, being asked "Do you, William James Dornan, take this woman to be your wife", and you giving a very equivocal response to the effect that well she is alight but she over there is her equal and why on earth should one choose between them, they are both the same, all in all. Naturally to say at this point your intended will have left the building

1:12 pm  
Blogger dominic said...

"alright", not "alight", obviously - that would be rather alarming

1:12 pm  
Blogger bill said...

An amusing analogy, but wrong. If I thought backing Ken (or even Boris) would spice up my sex life I'd be canvassing like a flotilla of sailing boats.

Let's say that next time I see you I'll either kick you in the teeth or kick you in the balls. Are you really going to rush to a decision?

This is not a great, world changing choice, ffs, it's the mayor of London.

I've said it before, but the trick is knowing what's worth caring about and what isnt.

1:17 pm  

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