With the mayoral elections coming up, let’s take a quick look at the candidates. Boris has a mad middle name (de Pfeffel), is charismatic because he knows how to work the press, and swiped all Ken’s credit for getting London cycling. Nothing sticks to the old Etonian and he’s notable by his absence as much as his profile. But there have been some visible improvements to the city under his reign, with a number of good new buildings commissioned and some seriously bad ones. Red buses are coming back, at a huge cost.
One of the good things about Ken Livingstone’s tenure as Mayor was that he changed how we thought about traffic in the city. The majority of the population is on foot, so why should it always bow to private vehicles? He realised that in one area, Brixton, something like 95% of the population was walking and just 5% driving – and most of those were passing through to get to somewhere else – so a subtle redressing of the balance occurred. That he mainly did it without upsetting anyone was a miracle. On a local level, he built us a park and then saved it from developers. Hands-on but will upset Tories who live in the country but insist on going on about London.
Brian Paddick is the outsider. The former Met officer has made some mistakes – remember the Lambeth spliffs? But he’s hot on law and order, appeals to all ages and, being gay, is gay-friendly. Yet – speaking as someone who has met him – he struck me as very buttoned-down, hard to warm to and a bit too uptight for London.
It’ll be Boris who gets in, of course – Londoners like slightly mad people who use Latin words in daily conversation. He works the system shamelessly, but is a sartorial embarrassment.
See what I did there? This is about as much information as you get in our London press about the candidates – more actually – most of which major on sex lives, haircuts and likeability. Very little about policies, spending, achievements or anything important.