So, London went to the polls. Or rather it didn't, because: it was a bit parky out; it might have rained; we'd run out of milk; had to get to the shops; who could be arsed; it was the same old people; oh, was it on Thursday? This ennui might, in part, have to do with the options. The political class presented Londoners with the identical list they mustered last time. Perhaps it is their intention to keep asking us the same question until we eventually get it right.
There had been debates and advertising and surreptitious spamming and mail drops and bust ups and it all amounted to nought as no-one had been listening and they certainly had not been reading. You did, dear reader, but that is because you are by-election curious. You take notice, you read the pamphlets and weigh the arguments. You are switched on and engaged. You are not normal, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.
The masses, of which I am one, do not give a stuff about policies and promises because we have long held the belief that they are works of fiction, that we are not to take seriously what a politician says who is craving more power, or yearning to keep what they already have. In the eyes of the many, it would be a frothing delight to have seen the lot of them lose, for they appear to be as bad as each other. You can tell they are lying because their gums are flapping.
In the end, it came down to a popularity contest. In the 1970s, where Ken Livingstone resides, the electorate were political, they were motivated and they were passionate. In the new millennium, from where Boris hails, those eligible to vote have been politically exsanguinated - they have had their interest in politics excised by too many hopes pinned on too many disappointments. We can't go on believing for ever.
There was, of course, the option of going with the other candidates and swerving the two likeliest lads. There was bolt upright Brian Paddick who seems earnest and trustworthy, while also appearing to be a boy squirming to attract the teacher's attention by straining his arm to the ceiling but who never gets chosen. He might be too normal to get elected. Not televisual enough and not remotely funny.
Unfortunately for the Greens, the only funny thing about the nice lady they had fronting their hopes is her medieval hair. And her use of the word "sustainable" a lot. This is now so richly imbued with humour after the TV satire of Britain's Olympics preparations Twenty Twelve, that it is all but unusable except as the pathway to a joke. As a political rallying cry, it's just not sustainable.
There were other candidates but they did not cause many to heave themselves off to the polling stations, so let's ignore them, as the public have done, and bring ourselves to squint at the two titans of local politics.
Ken Livingstone looked like a beaten husk of a man throughout - a perma-tanned, leather faced, Dalek voiced throwback to an era when politics was about the issues and not the preserve of show business. He has all the razzmatazz of a coffee cup ring on an unpolished trestle table. He has facts at his fingertips, he can pluck figures from the air like he is picking low hanging fruit and it matters not one jot because people don't vote for that any more. It is all about the telly now and he looks as good on that as an indoor aerial.
Ken has the armour and weaponry to fight a good battle, just not this kind of battle. Not any more. He brought a sword to a blunderbuss contest. It is this feeling that he is out of time, or rather, that he is out of HIS time that informs his flabbergasted mien. He looks like a man who can't quite get used to the fact that the game has changed and the superficial have taken over the asylum. He has shown up in cricket whites to be told that today's match is to be football. It must be galling to have lost to a television personality. Even worse to have ceded the game's rules to one. It was all change when Tony won with a televisual smile and an ocular twinkle. Ken's problem is that he hasn't changed at all. It is not to our credit that we have.
Boris Johnson has the air of a man who got dressed against the clock. In a skip. He is blonde, or at least the angel-hair whisp of a golden halo that appears to float above his pate is blonde. That's a plus with the proles. He is also a star of the flat screen. And, crucially, he is funny. Make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh. If you can do that, they will feel positively towards you and negatively about those who would propose that this is not a laughing matter. Which it isn't. Boris has acquired the sort of brand recognition that has enabled him to be one of the few people in public life to only require one name. There is Madonna, Maradona, Maggie, Kylie, and Boris. He was crowned London Mayor last time for two reasons: he was that funny chap off the telly and he was not Red Ken.
Boris employs a forcefield of stuttering bluster to overcome any argument or attack and you could see in Ken's eyes that he felt powerless in the face of such a hot wind during the televised debate. He was exasperated that the audience, and by extension us lot, were mesmerised by this jocular typhoon of bumptious whimsicality. It didn't actually matter what he was saying. He would spew Latin and quote the arcane and pour the syrup of his expensive education over us and perhaps he alone in the room would get the joke but it was funny anyway, simply because HE is funny. People like that. In the future, all our politicians might be comedians. You might think that future is already here.
The few who could be bothered to rouse themselves to vote traipsed along to a deserted polling station and squeezed themselves into a booth made for the dimensions of Britons in the 1970's, when the artisans of the era stopped striking long enough to roughly nail together some bits of waste timber that you'd reject for a shed, that they've been using for this purpose ever since. Where do they store them?
Voters hunched in so that the invigilators could not view their dithering confusion about which of the multicoloured slips of paper is for what and why there were three of them, when they were expecting only one. They probably decided right then, at that moment, which of the stranger's names they had been presented with deserved their vote, based on no knowledge of what any of them were proposing, or even what they looked like. But when it came to the big one, they knew what Boris looks like all right, He's that funny bloke off the telly, and they voted for him.
You want predictions? Ken will write a book telling us where we all went wrong. Labour will opt for a celebrity next time. Brian Paddick will try something else. And Chelsea will lose to Bayern Munich. Germany will beat England. Again. On penalties.
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