The idea that world leaders might be educated at some of the world's finer institutes of higher education had, at one time, been considered a good thing. But the likes of George Bush put a stop to that.
Now, we like our leaders to be, if not quite as dumb as shit, at least smeared across the face with said shit, preferably from a muddy rural field away from any suspicious higher spires of learning. In the US, this is an exercise in anti-intellectual snobbery that Pol Pot would have been proud of. In Britain, it’s not the anti-intellectual aspect, but the class issue.
As it happens, David Cameron — Leader of the Opposition, head of the Conservative Party and prospective Prime Minister of Great Britain — went to Eton. A private school (known as a "public" school in the UK, in that anyone can go there — if they’ve got the money) of the higher order, which has taught more prime ministers and cabinet members than any others, along with its fair share of archbishops, bankers, newspaper editors and business directors. And for a time, that was fine. Now, however, it’s not.
Tags: Barack Obama, Boris Johnson, Conservative Party (UK), David Cameron, Indecision Internationale, Tony Blair, United Kingdom
You know that feeling when you slowly wake with a sore, heavy head? As you peel your saliva-encrusted jaw from the sheet, try to turn the blurred random shapes dancing across your eyelids into a semblance of reality, and try to answer the nagging thought that last night, after the seventeenth vodka shot, you may have done something very silly indeed? Oh yes, you slept with your cousin, someone filmed it on their phone and it's already a Featured Item on YouTube.
That's how London is starting to feel. Late Friday night, Conservative candidate Boris Johnson was crowned mayor of London, beating the two-term incumbent Labour candidate Ken Livingstone.
The mayoral election coincided with a number of local elections across England and Wales, and the Conservative Party cleaned up, pushing Labour into third place behind the Liberal Democrats — the worst result for Labour since they began measuring these sorts of things. Compared to his political compatriots, Ken held up remarkable well in London, with almost half the votes…but an emphasis on the "almost."
And so the Conservatives have taken the crown jewel of London Mayor and will expect to use it as a stick to beat Labour until the General Election in two years time. And if they had to use a populist bumbling gaffe-prone oaf in order to do it, then them's the breaks. They can always surround him with right-minded people to make sure he does the right thing and says as little as possible.
London will have a long holiday weekend to think about exactly what it has done. With an Olympic ceremony to plan for, a new public transport system to build and probably the odd bombing to cope with along the way, was it wise to elect the political equivalent of a Teletubby to grand office? Will anyone be able to look each other in the eye come Tuesday?
The next four years will, of course, be entertaining. If Boris fails, he will do so spectacularly and with much hand-waving and hopping about. If he succeeds, then we will enter a new Golden Age of Boris as Big Brother inmates stand for Parliament, daytime TV presenters take over the High Courts and children's entertainers start a political revolution. Piers Morgan for King? It might just happen. And Boris has created hope and aspiration for all — for if he can become mayor then any Londoner has a real fighting chance of being elected pope. Get those chimneys smoking, cardinals!
And as for Ken? Stepping down from the last job he ever wanted, rejected after eight years by the city he loves more than his five children from three women, all he has to console himself with is taking over Boris Johnson's extremely lucrative position on the public speaking circuit, working his own hours, sniping at both Boris and his own Prime Minister, and pulling in far more than his salary as Mayor of London.
How will he ever cope?
Tags: Boris Johnson, Indecision Internationale, Ken Livingstone
Tired of American politics? Then why not look overseas and take solace that it's not quite as insane as the London Mayoral election taking place today? Some limey named Rich Johnston remains our intrepid guide:
The morning sun sparkles across the Thames River, twisting and turning, bisecting the city, dividing it as much as the London Mayoral election has. On one bank, the twice incumbent Labour candidate Ken. On the other, the buffoonishly Conservative candidate Boris. Surnames are unnecessary now.
And today is Election Day! And the result is too close to call. Indeed, it may be an election not so much about candidates but polling companies — online pollster YouGov giving Boris consistent leads while dead-tree press pollsters make it a much closer fight with Ken. There'll be blood on the questionnaires come morning.
Boris has charged his opponents with hacking his website, push polling, lying about his attitude to the Koran and about abolishing free over-60s to travel on public transport. Yet Boris' promises to reform the monstrously long and unwieldy "bendy buses" that traverse London hit the skids when he priced it at £8 million — before conceding it might be more like £100 million. In London, it always comes down to transport.
Ken admitted to openly deceiving the British government over the now-successful Olympic bid for 2012. He claimed he didn't care for sport. It was a ruse to trick the government into spending billions to renovate London's East End — an act of deceit he's very proud of. But it makes his protestations over claims no one trusts him seem like the boy who cried urban fox.
Boris has proved very Internet-friendly, as befits a figure of fun. From an acoustic parody of Obama Girl, the YouTube hit "I Think I Fancy You Boris", to the odd attack site, comedy show appearances, children's TV parodies, dream diaries and German tackling, he does seem an amorphous nexus of creative energies.
But he does play into Ken's last-minute advertising lurch. "Don't Vote For a Joke" scream the new posters – "Imagine Boris dealing with London's 40 billion transport budget. Suddenly he's not so funny."
There are already reports of senior Conservative members discussing how to deal with a rogue gaffe-prone Boris if he wins, with further allegations that he will surround himself with shadowy stooges to do the real work and is only using the Mayor of London as a stepping stone to becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Ken hasn't got Madonna's vote. But in an increasingly cynical London, that very fact might win him thousands more. Ken's banking on that cynicism to get Londoners to vote for the devil they know, and not for a guy with a silly haircut.
Next on Indecision Internationale –the results for an election that most other American news sources will lump with the soccer scores.
Tags: Boris Johnson, Indecision Internationale, Ken Livingstone
Tired of American politics? Then why not look overseas and take solace that it's not quite as insane as the London Mayoral elections taking place on Thursday? Some limey named Rich Johnston keeps holding our hand through it all:
Brian Paddick, an ex-police commissioner, is the main third party candidate standing for London Mayor. He was once going to be the Conservative Party candidate, until he changed his mind.
That he is a practising homosexual subject to domestic abuse has hardly had any play, even amongst the most conservative of media. Compared to Ken Livingstone's five children from three women, or Boris Johnson's high profile affairs and abortions, Brian's long-term monogamous relationship seems the most respectable. Although he was married to a lady in the eighties, like so many politicians, he flip-flopped.
Even Brian's drugs policy, where he instructed his officers not to make arrests for cannabis possession (think The Wire's "Hamsterdam" spread out across a London borough), was respected by much of the media.
The problem with Brian is that while he's certainly a figure of authority, he's seen as an uninspiring candidate. His policies have no bite; they seem mundane, more managerial than inspirational.
So he's been going on the offensive of late, trying to at least persuade people that he might have an actual personality. He's just called Ken Livingstone a "nasty little man" and of Boris, said, "I wouldn't trust him to run anything for me." For Brian, these are strong words.
But unlike other major British elections, the London Mayor uses the "Alternative Vote" system, where voters have a first and second choice. When Brian is eliminated (and he will be), his voters' second choices will go to Boris or Ken. If Brian says which of the two candidates he supports more, he could swing the result.
Except right now, he isn't saying.
So while Ken and Boris and slamming the hell out of each other, even when Brian attacks them, they turn the other cheek and are, well, remarkably nice to him. And not just in case Brian gets some old friends to throw them down the stairs.
In the next installment of Indecision Internationale, it's Election Day in London!
Tags: Boris Johnson, Indecision Internationale, Ken Livingstone, London
Tired of American politics? Then why not look overseas and take solace that it's not quite as insane as the London Mayoral elections? Some limey named Rich Johnston is still holding our hand through it all.
As Arnold Schwarzenegger prepared to address the UK's Conservative Party Conference, he caught the mop-haired Boris Johnson in full flow. "He's fumbling all over the place," judged The Governator. And it's easy to see Boris as a foolish anachronistic muppet with as much business in politics as a syphilitic whelk. But it's also very hard to actually dislike him.
Once upon a time, his name was Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. Educated at Eton and Oxford, he was a member of The Bullingdon Club, famed for wrecking dining establishments, then thrusting a large wad of cash in the aggrieved owner’s face.
Boris lasted less than a week as a management consultant before going into journalism, where he was sacked after fabricating a quote from his godfather. But exploiting his contacts, he became a political writer and editor. His bizarre bumbling appearances on the nearest thing the UK has to the Daily Show, "Have I Got News For You" brought him instant fame.
As a Conservative politician, he was fired from his position after lying about an extramarital affair with a fellow journalist. Other affairs as well as his quibbling over the cost of an abortion came to light but no one ascribed malice to his actions. The public decided Boris must have accidentally tripped and fallen into a lot of women.
And desperate to find a popular challenger to two-term incumbent London Mayor Ken Livingstone, The Conservative Party plumped for Boris, the man who had said "Voting [Conservative] will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3." A tape of Boris colluding with a convicted fraudster to assault a journalist, repeatedly calling black people "piccaninnies" and admitting to cannabis and cocaine use did not damage him. After all, none of it could have been his fault. Not bumbling Boris.
Right now it looks like Boris will win. Hell, he could admit to anally raping the Pope and still get away with it.
In the next installment of Indecision Internationale, you'll meet Brian Paddick.
Tags: Boris Johnson, Indecision Internationale