Thursday, May 01, 2008

London Calling

Warning: Everything written here is done under the influence of significant amounts of alcohol. Make of that what you will. The sentiments still stand and remain valid, even if they are fuelled by an unrestrained wave of righteous indignation. Let’s do this. Also? I love you, spellcheck.

Hello, London. Today is the 1st of May 2008. The date of the London mayoral elections. (Is there an uglier word in the English language than “mayoral”? There must be, even if I can’t think of one right now.)

I’m utterly fascinated by politics. Have been ever since my impressionable young mind was recast in the wake of reading Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 many years ago. My nascent interest in political chicanery lay dormant for a long time until Aaron Sorkin’s glorious The West Wing flared it up again, followed soon after by the horrific and compelling car crash of the Bush-Gore stand-off back in 1998. Ah, the memories! Now I’m probably hooked for life. The corruption, the back-stabbing, the mud-slinging – all the drama of life is here.

And I really wasn’t going to write about the London elections. Really. But I was out earlier and I made the mistake of casting my eyes over the front page of a discarded London freesheet and it made me furious. I ripped off the page so I could excerpt it here. This is the fourth paragraph from the lead story of thelondonpaper (irritating lack of capitalisation and shabby neglect of the spacebar is theirs, not mine):

thelondonpaper is not taking sides in this election; unlike other newspapers, we are not going to endorse any candidate. We launched with a premise of party political neutrality, as an antidote to the corrosive and destructive bias elsewhere in the media and in politics. We know Londoners can’t stand being patronised. So much so, that the last two mayoral elections have seen the electorate ignoring the media, the polls, and even the Labour party, by electing Livingstone.”

Got that? Now read it again, paying special attention to that last sentence. It’s OK – I’ll wait.

Now, is that the most fucking outrageous and disgustingly odious example of doublethink you’ve read lately or what?

So – I’m going to pin my colours to the mast and indulge in a rant. Join me, won’t you?

First up, I’ve been listening to a lot of bullshit this week. This is a real conversation I had yesterday. My colleague was laughing at Boris Johnson and so I said “He’s a prick.” The response? “I know! He’s a fucking idiot. That’s why I’m voting for him!”

And that’s not an isolated example – it’s just representative of the crap I’ve been exposed to.

Mistaking Boris Johnson for a floppy-haired buffoon is on a par with the mistake that Middle America made when thinking of Bush as a down-home, clumsy hick. These really aren’t stupid men. You don’t attain this level of success by being a moron. Playing a character, even if it is a lovable clown or an amiable doofus, is just another tactic to endear themselves to us. Anything that garners a vote is OK by them.

I was going to go on a tear about the filthy smear campaign that Andrew Gilligan and the Evening Standard has waged on Ken Livingstone for months now, but I figure that if you’re dumb enough to buy into the hate and fear peddled by the Standard on a daily basis, then you kind of get the mayor that you deserve. So let’s skip that.

Do I think Ken is the dream ticket? Of course not. But I do genuinely believe that he loves London and that he wants this to be the world-leading capital city that it has always been, as well as having a genuine interest in environmental issues. And I also believe that Boris would be a really bad thing for this beautiful, unruly, maddening, intoxicating, insane, glorious bitch of a city.

But that’s just me. Don’t take my word for it. Make up your own damn mind.

(Plus - None of these guys are going to fix the mess that is the London Underground. That’s pretty much irrevocably screwed.)

I’m fed up of listening to otherwise apparently intelligent people basing their decision on the next London mayor on personalities or their local bus route or a shallow witticism fired off at a photo-op. Vote for whoever the hell you want. If you truly believe Boris is the best candidate, then go for it. Do your thing. One man, one vote, right? But don’t be swayed by trivia and distractions and irrelevant headlines. Voter idiocy is just as toxic as voter apathy.

X marks the spot. Let’s see what happens next.

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