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