Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Calm down, it's only a local election

My prediction, as even people who really don't care now know, was pretty much right, I'm not certain about the exact percentages, but think Boris won by a bit more than 4%. Still a couple more predictions and observations before we move on.

However good or bad Boris is as mayor, civilisation will not collapse because he's won. His plans to convince the RMT not to strike on the tube looks pretty unlikely to succeed. Ditto the decision to scrap Ken's vague pledge to set targets for affordable homes in favour of an equally vague plan convincing developers to build more. Then again, this problem goes way beyond the mayor's remit, any mayoral policy here is a question of deciding which direction of the wind you're going to piss into. You could say the same about his plans to stop kids killing each other, but I suspect his focus on this is intended to be a taster for a future Tory government.

The divide between the suburbs and central London is not a great sign of things to come. The idea, by some of the Livingstone supporters, that outer Londoners are the wrong kind of Londoners is foolish; people who work in and pay for the capital are Londoners. Barking is as much part of London as Battersea; Richmond as much as Hackney. The idea that London is a large and complex place with an ever varied character is a part of its charm, only when party politics intrudes do you have to make such a statement of the obvious.

That said, the capital works best when run from the centre. If Johnson neglects inner London in favour of his voters in the suburbs, everyone will be the poorer for it. He needs to live up to his own words.

Finally, can we please lay to bed the idea that the Evening Standard swung the election? – it'll only encourage them. A tawdry rag it may be, a great former of opinion it is not. The idea It's the Standard Wot Won It seems particularly strong in the Guardian's own little world. The Standard's "poisonous" campaign has been blamed by a few more Ken fans (all links just from the Graun, I can't face digging out all the lip quivering stuff I've read). The irony, of course, is that the Guardian itself ran a string of vigorous, if somewhat hysterical articles (only vulgar rags like the Standard run actual campaigns you see) against Boris: the effete and frivilous Tory, the racist, the evil, baby-eating Tory bigot etc.

The fact that one newspaper "succeeded" and one "failed" might indicate the uselessness of the idea of the press swinging elections. In as much as the media does influence elections (rather than indicating which way things are going), it is by uncovering facts which do not show one of the parties in a good light. As an example, consider an election the Guardian did influence, the 1997 general election. It uncovered and exposed wrong-doing by the likes of Jonathan Aitken and Neil Hamilton and fought its corner against those yelling about a biased and disgraceful media campaign. Then it was landing real blows on the Tories, this time round it was feebly beating its fists against Boris's chest shrieking "I hate you, I hate you, I hate you".

The Standard ran a lot of stupid scare stories about Livingstone, it also unearthed allegations which, at least, were worthy of investigation. Here is the source of those allegations, Andrew Gilligan, with more reasons why blaming the Standard for the decisions people take at the ballot box is utter tripe.

In commentary I make no secret of my views, so readers can take them into account as part of deciding how seriously to take my news reports.

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Blogger Quink said...

The Guardian's just jealous that it doesn't have the influence it reckons the Standard has.

Quite agree with your point about inner/outer London. I think one factor that ensured Ken lost was the fact he'd had 8 years to (at the very least) emphasise he was mayor of outer London too. He didn't - his tendency was to Balkanise even in that respect - and the outer Londoners thumped him, along with the inner Londoners Boris had wooed.

But I've made the point at greater length over at my place.

11:49 am  

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