Tag Archives: london

Bayrou, heir to liberal-right UDF tradition, joins forces with center-left Macron

François Bayrou, giving up plans to run in what would have been his fourth attempt at the French presidency, has endorsed Emmanuel Macron. (Facebook)

In French politics, François Bayrou is always the bridesmaid — never the bride.

That was true in the 1990s, it was true in the 2000s and it now seems true in the 2010s as the longtime centrist ended his own presidential hopes for 2017 and endorsed the center-left independent candidate, Emmanuel Macron.

The 65-year-old Bayrou, who got his start in politics in the 1980s, and who has waged three earlier presidential campaigns, is forming an alliance with Macron as France turns to the first round of its presidential election on April 23, a presidential runoff on May 7 and parliamentary elections on June 11 and 18.

In stark language, Bayrou warned that his country was at ‘extreme risk’ after an election campaign that had so far ‘made a mockery of France,’ a risk that necessitates an ‘exceptional response’ — in the form of elevating the relatively inexperienced 39-year-old Macron to the presidency.

Bayrou came closest to winning the presidency himself in 2007, when he appealed to voters with doubts about both the center-right candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the candidate of the center-left Parti socialiste (PS, Socialist Party), Ségolène Royal, winning nearly a fifth of the French electorate in that year. But his appeal faltered in recent years, and polls show that Bayrou would win merely 5% or 6% of the vote among an extraordinarily fluid and crowded 2017 field.

Once a rising moderate star of the French right, Bayrou served as education minister under former prime minister Édouard Balladur from 1993 to 1995 and then under Alain Juppé from 1995 to 1997. Bayrou also serves as the mayor of Pau, the capital of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region of southwest France. Yet Bayrou never incredibly warmed to Sarkozy, and he has excoriated François Fillon, the former Sarkozy prime minister who came from behind to win the Républicain nomination (eclipsing both Sarkozy and one-time frontrunner Juppé). Fillon has been stung by accusations in recent weeks that, while in office, he funneled public funds to his wife, Penelope, and children for jobs they never actually performed.

Greater scrutiny is taking its toll on Macron

Though Macron’s popularity soared in December and January, his campaign has stalled with voters at around 20% support. With the far-right candidate of the Front national, Marine Le Pen, leading the first-round vote with around 26%, Fillon and Macron are essentially tied for second place and the all-important ticket to the May presidential runoff against Le Pen. Polls show that either Fillon or Macron today would trounce Le Pen by a nearly 60%-to-40% margin.  Continue reading Bayrou, heir to liberal-right UDF tradition, joins forces with center-left Macron

Why Northern Ireland is the most serious obstacle to Article 50’s invocation

Few Protestants or Catholics want to go back to the days of a land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. (BBC)
Few Protestants or Catholics want to go back to the days of a land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. (BBC)

When pro-Leave campaigners argued that, by leaving the European Union, Great Britain could ‘take back control,’ one of the clear things over which Brexit proponents seem to want to take control was national borders.northernirelandUnited Kingdom Flag Icon

Given that Great Britain itself is an island, that’s mostly a theoretical proposition, because you can’t step across the border into England, Scotland and Wales — their ‘borders’ are through their seaports and airports.

That’s not true in Northern Ireland, the only region in the United Kingdom that does share a land border with another European Union member-state. It’s also one of the most delicate tripwires for British prime minister Theresa May in her dutiful quest to invoke Article 50 of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty next year and begin negotiations for a British EU withdrawal.

Scotland has garnered more headlines because Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has argued that Scots, who voted strongly for Remain, deserve a second independence referendum  when the British government finally does leave the European Union. But if ‘Remain’ proponents are looking to the one part of the United Kingdom that could impossibly prevent Article 50’s invocation, they should look to Northern Ireland, where Brexit could unravel two decades of peace, and where Brexit is already causing some anxiety about the region’s future.

May, just days after replacing David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, visited Belfast earlier this week in a bid to reassure both unionists and republicans. But it’s not clear that May’s first journey to Northern Ireland, which preceded a meeting with Ireland’s leader a day later, was a success.

May boldly claimed that Brexit need not result in the return of a ‘hard border’ between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. But settling Northern Ireland’s Brexit border issue is virtually intractable for the May government — at least without alienating one of three crucial groups of people: first, the mostly Catholic republicans of Northern Ireland; second, the most Protestant unionists of Northern Ireland or finally, those Brexit supports across the entire country who voted ‘Leave’ in large part to close UK borders to further immigration.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 2.16.22 AM

As in Scotland, Northern Ireland’s voters narrowly titled against Brexit — 55.78% supported ‘Remain,’ while just 44.22% supported ‘Leave.’ Generally speaking, republicans widely supported ‘Remain,’ and unionists leaned toward ‘Leave,’ including first minister Arlene Foster. Continue reading Why Northern Ireland is the most serious obstacle to Article 50’s invocation

Why Boris at the Foreign Office makes a lot of sense

Boris Johnson's appointment as foreign secretary caught many off guard. (Facebook)
Boris Johnson’s appointment as foreign secretary caught many off guard. (Facebook)

It’s been a busy three weeks in British politics, but it’s been an especially busy 36 hours since Theresa May became the new prime minister and rolled out the key appointments of what will be the country’s government for the foreseeable future.United Kingdom Flag Icon

The most important role goes to Philip Hammond, who is now chancellor after three years as foreign secretary, and Amber Rudd will replace May as home secretary. But the biggest surprise was May’s decision yesterday to appoint former London mayor Boris Johnson as the new foreign secretary.

In one sense, it’s a perfect move for Johnson, who is perhaps the most well-known British politician abroad, who was born in New York City, and who (mostly) served as a capable ambassador for London in his two terms as mayor, most notably during the 2012 Olympics. It’s a remarkable comeback for a politician who lent his star power to the ‘Leave’ campaign, then watched as his ally, Michael Gove, brutally nudged him out of the Conservative leadership contest. Despite his humiliating withdrawal from the contest, Johnson is still one of the most potent political talents on the Tory benches.

For May, however, it is a bold and cunning move — for at least four reasons. Continue reading Why Boris at the Foreign Office makes a lot of sense

In defense of David Cameron

Prime minister David Cameron resigned earlier this morning. (Stefan Wermuth / Reuters)
Prime minister David Cameron resigned earlier this morning. (Stefan Wermuth / Reuters)

Normally, when a politician — especially a president or a prime minister — resigns, he or she is met with effusive praise.United Kingdom Flag Icon

There’s the defeat. Then the stepping down. Then a deluge of pieces heralding the peaks as well as the valleys of the political career that’s just ended.

Not David Cameron, who stepped out of 10 Downing Street this morning to step down as British prime minister, a day after he narrowly lost a campaign to keep the United Kingdom inside the European Union. For Cameron, today’s political obituaries, so to speak, are absolutely brutalThe Independent called him the ‘worst prime minister in a hundred years.’

And that’s perhaps fair. He is, after all, the prime minister who managed to guide his country, accidentally, out of the European Union. His country (and, indeed all of Europe) now faces a period of massive uncertainty as a result.

The man who once hectored his party to stop ‘banging on about Europe’ has now been done in over Europe — just as the last two Conservative prime ministers, Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

He’ll leave behind a Scotland that wanted to stay inside the European Union by a margin of 62% to 38% and that will now have the moral and political capital to demand a fresh independence referendum to become an independent Scotland within the European Union. First minister Nicola Sturgeon, of course, knew this all along, and she wasted no time in making clear that a second vote is now her top priority.

He’ll also leave behind an awful mess as to the status of Northern Ireland, which also voted for Remain by a narrower margin. Its borders with the Republic of Ireland are now unclear, the republican Sinn Fein now wants a border poll on Irish unification and the Good Friday agreement that ended decades of sectarian violence might have to be amended.

He’ll leave behind an angry electorate in England, sharply divided by income, race, ethnicity and culture — if the divide between England Scotland looks insurmountable, so does the divide between London and the rest of England. Despite the warning signs, and the rise of Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Cameron failed to provide English voters with the devolution of regional power that voters enjoyed in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and even London.

Cameron showed, unlike Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, he was willing to accede to the wishes of Scottish nationalists and give them a say in their own self-determination. Given the corrosive nature of the eurosceptic populism within his own party and in UKIP, it wasn’t unreasonable that Cameron would force them to ‘put up or shut up’ with the first in-out vote on EU membership since 1975, when the European Union was just the European Economic Community.

On every measure, Cameron leaves behind a country more broken and more polarized than the one he inherited from Gordon Brown in May 2010. Continue reading In defense of David Cameron

British voters take to polls today for historic EU referendum vote

After years of preparation, it's now up to voters to make their choice.
After years of preparation, it’s now up to voters to make their choice.

So it’s finally here.United Kingdom Flag Icon

Polls are now open across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, where voters are deciding whether to either remain a member of the European Union or to leave the European Union. It’s home to the largest city in the European Union (London) and, with 64.9 million people, it’s the third-most populous state in the European Union, after Germany and France.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. through 10 p.m. — that means that here on the east coast of the United States, polls will be closing at 5 p.m. ET, with the first results to arrive shortly thereafter. No official exit polls are being conducted, but private hedge funds are believed to have commissioned exit polls and early financial indictors could tell us know traders believe the result will go. In any event, the final result is expected to be announced by ‘breakfast time’ on Friday morning.

The United Kingdom joined what was then the European Economic Community in 1973 under Conservative prime minister Edward Heath, after two failed attempts at membership, in each case vetoed by French president Charles de Gaulle. Continue reading British voters take to polls today for historic EU referendum vote

Why British sovereignty would be even weaker after leaving the European Union

Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg (left) meets European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (right). (EEA).
Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg (left) meets European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (right). (EEA).

Chief among the reasons that the ‘Leave’ campaign cites for its campaign to convince British voters to leave the European Union is sovereignty. European_UnionUnited Kingdom Flag Icon

Here’s Ambrose-Evans Prichard, with a well-written and thoughtful essay endorsing Brexit last week in The Telegraph:

Stripped of distractions, it comes down to an elemental choice: whether to restore the full self-government of this nation, or to continue living under a higher supranational regime, ruled by a European Council that we do not elect in any meaningful sense, and that the British people can never remove, even when it persists in error.

For some proponents of the ‘Leave’ campaign, sovereignty matters so much that the warnings of a significant short-term disruption to the British economy simply do not matter. In the long run, Brexit’s benefits will come, supporters hope, from the ability of future British policymakers to enact laws and regulations unhindered by the grinding bureaucracy of Brussels and Strasbourg.

That Brexit will lead to such full-throated British sovereignty is not so clear — at least if the United Kingdom wants to leave the European Union while still retaining access to the single market, one of the world’s most integrated free-trade zones.

Britain, contemplating divorce, already has a ‘separation’ with Europe 

It’s not always easy to sort the alphabet soup within the European Union, let alone the rest of Europe that lies outside the technical European Union. But arguably the United Kingdom today enjoys much more freedom than any of the other 27 member-states of the European Union. As British voters consider divorce from Europe, they would do well to consideration that their country is already in something of a separation with Europe.

Today, the United Kingdom is neither a member of the euro currency zone and monetary union, nor (like Ireland) the Schengen zone of free movement. The former means that the United Kingdom still has its own currency, the pound sterling, and the Bank of England controls British monetary policy. The latter means that the United Kingdom retains more control over its borders than even non-EU states like Switzerland and Norway (both party to the Schengen Agreement).  Continue reading Why British sovereignty would be even weaker after leaving the European Union

Meet the Muslim, 2nd generation Pakistani-British politician set to lead London

Sadiq Khan, a Labour MP and the son of Pakistani immigrants, leads polls to become London's next mayor. (Facebook)
Sadiq Khan, a Labour MP and the son of Pakistani immigrants, leads polls to become London’s next mayor. (Facebook)

When Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour Party’s leadership last September, party stalwarts in London also voted to choose a candidate to contest London’s mayoral election, one of many regional elections taking place on May 5.england_640United Kingdom Flag Icon

Corbyn’s elevation marked the moment when Labour’s rank-and-file members ripped down the curtain on New Labour, ending the party’s two-decade move to the center that kept it in power for three consecutive terms under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

But it was perhaps the internal contest to lead Labour into London’s mayoral contest that struck the most damning blow.

The initial frontrunner, Tessa Jowell, pushed London’s bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics as a minister in the Blair government. When London, in fact, won the Olympics, she became the government’s minister for the Olympics as well. Jowell, a ‘Blairite’ long associated with the centrist incrementalism of New Labour, seemed like the perfect fit for one of the world’s financial capitals.

Instead, Labour voters turned to Sadiq Khan, a 45-year-old rising star of Labour’s ‘soft left’ flank. The son of Pakistani immigrants (his mother was a seamstress, his father a bus driver), it’s hard to conceive of a sharper contrast against his opponent, Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith, the son of a billionaire.

Goldsmith’s father, James Goldsmith, won notoriety in the 1990s for his ‘Referendum Party,’ a eurosceptic forerunner of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). His son, just 41 years old, wasn’t an implausible candidate for London’s Tories. Like Cameron, Goldsmith is a moderate on social issues, and he is a former writer who spent nearly a decade as the editor of The Ecologist. But he has struggled to contest the image of a wealthy plutocrat out of touch with struggles of everyday Londoners. In April, he struggled to answer several ‘pop quiz’ questions in an interview about the city.

Moreover, Goldsmith’s campaign has been tainted by what even some Conservative critics have called Islamaphobic scare tactics. Those attacks have made Goldsmith seem not only demagogic but also desperate.

If polls are correct, Khan will easily defeat Goldsmith on Thursday. Continue reading Meet the Muslim, 2nd generation Pakistani-British politician set to lead London

Obama’s credibility now on the line with Brexit vote

specialrelationship
US president Barack Obama joined forces with British prime minister David Cameron on Friday to cajole voters in the United Kingdom to stay in the European Union. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

It all seemed so rational, so normal.United Kingdom Flag IconUSflag

When US president Barack Obama took the stage yesterday in London (and on the pages of The Daily Telegraph) to dismantle, with surgical precision, the arguments against the United Kingdom staying in the European Union, it didn’t feel like a rupture in international politics.

But it was a radical departure from standard operating procedure.

US presidents, to say nothing of lower officials, have never had qualms intervening in the domestic affairs of foreign countries.

Rarely does an American president so do in such a public forum.

Rarer still that an American president would weigh in on a matter that will be determined by a foreign electorate in eight weeks.

* * * * *

RELATED: How Corbyn can use Brexit to
reinvigorate his Labour leadership

* * * * *

Standing beside the British prime minister, Obama was making the case against Brexit better than anyone else on the British political stage, in part because of the sheer scale of power that comes with the American presidency. Special or no, the body language of Obama and his British counterpart David Cameron spoke everything about the unequal bilateral partnership. Amazingly, Obama managed to shrink and upstage Cameron nearly as much as George W. Bush diminished Tony Blair, oft mocked as Bush’s ‘poodle,’ over the Iraq war in 2003.  Continue reading Obama’s credibility now on the line with Brexit vote

The smart (and cynical) politics behind Boris’s Brexit decision

johnsonbrexit
London mayor Boris Johnson has become the most high-profile supporter of the ‘out’ side of the United Kingdom’s EU membership referendum. (Getty)

For a two-term incumbent mayor of London, supporting the campaign for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union might amount to policy malpractice.European_Union

No city stands to lose more from Brexit than London, which, despite sterling’s resilience, has become the de facto financial capital of Europe and is one of three or four truly global capitals. If the British vote to leave the European Union, of course, many finance jobs could leave London, depressing many other secondary industries. While there are powerful arguments for Brexit, even among London’s residents, it’s hard to believe that Brexit would be a net positive for London as a global and European capital.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t surprising that London’s outgoing mayor, Boris Johnson, announced his support Sunday for leaving the European Union in a lengthy ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ editorial for The Telegraph. It followed a weeklong Hamlet act that left prime minister David Cameron gasping for the support of his slightly older one-time Eton classmate. Johnson couched his support for Brexit in terms of restoring democratic control to British voters, all while proclaiming his love for Europe and making the case for strong EU-UK relations in a post-Brexit world.

Be bold, Johnson urged British voters!

Now is not the time to ‘hug the skirts of Nurse in Brussels.’

‘Boris’ is one of a few British politicians known to voters by his first name, and his star power was enough to slam the British pound to a seven-year low Monday morning. Breaking ranks with most of the cabinet in David Cameron’s majority government, Johnson upended the Brexit battle, transforming what was already becoming a tough internal fight among Tories into an all-out struggle to dominate the post-referendum era.  Continue reading The smart (and cynical) politics behind Boris’s Brexit decision

What the world can teach the United States about DC voting rights

DSC00905

A view of DC from the top of Anacostia in East Washington.

If you walk through parts of Brasília, it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t modeled, at least architecturally, upon Washington, D.C. when it was built in the late 1950. But when it comes to the voting rights of its capital’s citizens, Brazil has looked beyond the American example.Washington_DC_IconUSflag

Last month, when Brazil held a general election, some 2.5 million voters in the Brazilian Distrito Federal voted for a new governor, eight members to the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Brazil’s National Congress, and one of its three members to the Senate, its upper house. In that regard, Brazil’s DF is not unlike any other state in the country. Remarkably, with one deputy per 310,000 residents, that’s a better ratio of representation than the residents of Brazil’s largest state, the far more populous São Paulo.

It’s a typical and unremarkable arrangement around the world, and it’s not unlike Mexico’s Federal District (Mexico City), India’s Delhi Capital Territory and even places with a much more limited history of democracy, including Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) and Malaysia’s Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur.

But not in the District of Columbia.

The United States of America, otherwise a beacon of democratic rule for over two centuries, is essentially the North Korea of federal district voting rights, a clear outlier for democratic best practices across the world. As voters across the country elect members of the House of Representatives, District voters have nothing. Continue reading What the world can teach the United States about DC voting rights

Why England needs a series of regional parliaments

St George's Day - NottinghamPhoto credit to PA.

Following the historic vote on Scottish independence, British prime minister David Cameron emerged early Friday morning to deliver remarks praising Scottish voters for keeping the United Kingdom (‘our country of four nations’) together.United Kingdom Flag Icon england_640

He promised to keep a pledge to enact rapid legislation devolving further powers to the Scottish parliament (‘devo-max’), but he simultaneously promised to propose reforms addressing the role of Scottish MPs on matters that are exclusively English in nature, responding to loud grumbling from English Tories that Scottish MPs shouldn’t have a vote on English matters and who have long cried, ‘English votes for English laws.’

In tying the issue of the promised Scottish devolution to the West Lothian question, Cameron was hoping to calm his own backbenchers, who, even before voters cast ballots in the September 18 referendum, briefing against the unfairness of the ‘Barnett formula,’ whereby Scottish residents receive greater per-capita government subsidy than English residents.

But that left Downing Street scrambling after both the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) and the pro-union, center-left Labour Party attacked Cameron for trying to tie the two issues together. Alex Salmond, who announced plans on Friday to step down as first minister after losing the referendum by a 10% margin, alleged that Cameron was already backing away from his promise to the Scottish people:

Salmond said that no voters in the referendum would feel they had been “misled”, “gulled” and “tricked”. The first minister told the Sunday Politics on BBC1: “I am actually not surprised they are cavilling and reneging on commitments; I am only surprised by the speed at which they are doing it. They seem to be totally shameless in these matters. The prime minister wants to link change in Scotland to change in England. He wants to do that because he has difficulty in carrying his backbenchers on this and they are under pressure from Ukip.

“The Labour leadership of course are frightened of any changes in England which leave them without a majority in the House of Commons on English matters. I think the vow was something cooked up in desperation for the last few days of the campaign and I think everyone in Scotland now realises that.”

Cameron strongly hinted that his approach would limit the ability of Scottish (or Welsh or Northern Irish) MPs to vote on matters that apply solely to English legislation. That echoes calls from other high-profile Conservative leaders like chief whip Michael Gove.

But it would be politically controversial for at least two reasons. Continue reading Why England needs a series of regional parliaments

A bad day for Boris — London’s mayor called ‘nasty piece of work’ in interview

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 1.24.31 AM

Boris Johnson, reelected last year as London’s major and often discussed as a potential Tory successor to prime minister David Cameron, had a very bad weekend.United Kingdom Flag Icon

In an interview with the BBC’s Eddie Mair, Johnson hemmed and hawed over whether he once invented a quote 30 years ago as a young news reporter, lied to former Conservative leader Michael Howard over an affair and a controversial phone conversation from 1990 between Johnson and a friend who wanted to, perhaps, assault a journalist (the journalist was never assaulted, though), each of which are revelations to be discussed in an upcoming documentary about Johnson’s life.

The interview culminates with Mair asking, ‘you’re a nasty piece of work, aren’t you?’

Mair finishes the interview challenging Johnson’s integrity even further for refusing to answer whether he wants to be prime minister one day.

I’m not sure that the questions were entirely relevant to Johnson’s role today as a two-term mayor of London, but it was nonetheless painful to watch Johnson dissemble throughout the interview, especially given the easy manner that ‘Boris’ generally has in public, which was clearly on display during the 2012 summer Olympics.

I’ve seen bad interviews before, and this is about as bad as the infamous Roger Mudd interview with the late U.S. senator Ted Kennedy in 1979 when Kennedy couldn’t give a compelling answer as to why he wanted to be president (Kennedy was challenging U.S. president Jimmy Carter at the time for the Democratic Party’s nomination).

The interview doesn’t necessarily end his chances to become prime minister one day, and it may well backfire on Mair, but it will also certainly renew and reinforce existing doubts about the London mayor’s discipline and his image — it’s the downside to the boyish, off-the-cuff charm that has made him such a noteworthy foil to the more dour Cameron and his chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne.

Watch the choice clips from the interview below the jump:

Continue reading A bad day for Boris — London’s mayor called ‘nasty piece of work’ in interview

Boris Johnson: the real mascot of the 2012 Summer Olympics

Hilarious. This is why Boris Johnson won the mayoral election of London initially in 2008 as a Conservative and was reelected in May 2012, despite a strong Labour wind, defeating former London mayor Ken Livingstone by a 3% margin.

Also, forget the goofy one-eyed blobs, Boris is the true mascot of the 2012 Summer Olympics.  From the minute we saw him waving the Olympic flag at the end of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, with his jacket opened, signalling London’s much looser approach to the Games (compared to the tightly synchronized Beijing Games), you just knew there would be no other way:

He’s rarely on-message (although he can show discipline when he wants).

He’s a bit of a goofy Etonian toff, floppy hair and all, but he’s probably the UK’s most popular politician today, with the possible exception of Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond.

As I’ve noted, he may one day be a British prime minister, as he certainly has more personality than the entire front bench of the current Tory (well, Coalition) government combined.  It’s thought that David Cameron, then just newly enshrined as the new Tory leader, sent Boris off to run for London mayor to get him out of his hair as he plotted the Tories’ own return to Westminster.  But given the current trajectory of Cameron’s government (with many blaming George Osborne’s* austerity policies as the main cause of the UK’s double-dip recession), it is not unthinkable that Boris may well lead the Tories in the next general election cycle or two.

Certainly, the exposure from hosting the 2012 Games will do him no harm (especially given that businessman Mitt Romney transformed his leadership of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City into a stint as Massachusetts governor and into the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2012).

H/T to Andrew Sullivan, who calls Boris the “un-Romney”.

* George Osborne serves as chancellor of the exchequer — essentially, the UK’s finance minister.

Johnson defeats Livingstone for mayor of London

Incumbent London mayor Boris Johnson has defeated former london mayor Ken Livingstone in Thursday’s election.

After leading first preference votes 44% to Livingstone’s 40%, Johnson defeated Livingstone on the count of second preference votes by a margin of 51.5% to 48.5%.

It is a striking win for Johnson and one of the few bright spots for a Conservative Party that lost nearly 800 council seats in Thursday’s local elections, which have already set tongues wagging about a potentially bright future for Johnson in national politics if he tires of London politics — a possibility that even Livingstone noted in his graceful concession speech Friday night.

 

 

There’s something about Boris

At a time when the United Kingdom is falling back into double-dip recession and the Conservative Party is falling to a nearly double-digit gap in opinion polls against Labour Party (under the leadership of the rather inexperienced Ed Miliband, at that), why is Boris Johnson so seemingly poised to swamp today’s London mayoral election against former mayor Ken Livingstone?

Johnson has led, however narrowly, throughout the mayoral campaign, and in late April opened up a significant polling lead on Livingstone.  Indeed, he seems to be widening his vote even as Livingstone tries to nationalize the election into a choice between Labour values and Conservative values (ironically, given his spotty history with the party).

You could probably count any number of reasons why this should not be the case.  Johnson’s record as mayor is not incredibly accomplished.  He’s presiding over a London that has watched its status as a global financial capital take quite a hit.  And he’s just as much of a pampered old Etonian as the current Tory leadership of prime minister David Cameron and chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne, who are under fire nationally for their budget cuts program at a time when UK growth is slipping and unemployment is rising.

Livingstone, the first mayor of London, can point to significant success in his time in office from 2000 to 2008.  He revamped London’s public transport system, even if his proposed congestion charge proved controversial.  He led the way on registry of same-sex couples way back in 2001, long before the UK Civil Partnerships Act in 2004.  Livingstone led the campaign to win the Summer Olympics to London, which will be held later this year.  He also led the city with calm and dignity in the face of the July 2005 terrorist bombings, while giving voice to many of the anti-war concerns than neither mainstream Labour nor the Tories voiced over the war on terror.

A maverick willing to stand on principle against his own party, Livingstone even found himself kicked out of Tony Blair’s Labour Party for a while for having the audacity to win the 2000 mayoral election without Blair’s blessing (Blair grudgingly readmitted Livingstone after his landslide win in the 2004 mayoral election).  There’s a strong case to be made that Livingstone offers better policies, while Boris offers only glib personality.  Boris represents a party that now owns the UK’s sluggish economy, but voters trust him nearly 2-to-1 as better for London’s economy.  Livingstone has pledged to cut transport costs by 7%, but Johnson still leads on transport issues.

So what gives? Continue reading There’s something about Boris