Monday, January 21, 2008

Ken Livingstone

I've just watched Dispatches on Channel 4 about Ken Livingstone - the Mayor of London. I've never seen such a bunch of bitter, small-minded, under-achieving and jealous interviewees as they managed to dredge up. They were either political opponents or disillusioned ex-employees so they're hardly likely to be impartial.

Ken's not popular with a lot of people, and I can see why. He winds me up at times but some of the criticism levelled at him was just piss poor. They accused him of employing advisers with whom he had worked with in the past. So? He is perfectly within his right to do that. They do appear to be of a pretty extreme political stripe but Ken didn't write his job description, and it is his right to employ whomever he chooses (within reason).

They had a bleat about congestion charging. The only mistake Ken made with the Congestion Charge was that he didn't make it enough - it should be £50 per day, every day, including weekends. I drive a car, live 4 miles from Central London and have never paid the charge because apart from a couple of weekends I've never had the need to drive through the Congestion Charge zone.

They moaned about buses. Apparently there are too many. For fuck's sake, what sort of a complaint is that? More people apparently are using the buses so they go slower. Well just think what things would be like without the extra buses and the congestion charge is the only reasonable response to those fatuous arguments. I remember the day the Congestion Charge was introduced. The media had reporters posted all over London, braced to report on the inevitable turmoil they had predicted would unfold. What happened? Nothing. All they noticed was, surprisingly, rather fewer cars on the road.

The role of Mayor of London was invented, specified and budgeted by New Labour who were confident they'd just shove Frank Dobson (remember him?) into the job and they'd have the whole thing stitched up nicely whilst proudly announcing how democratic the process was. They didn't anticipate Ken winning and New Labour have been smarting ever since. New Labour would love to see the back of Ken but the reality is, despite all New Labour's quiet skulduggery in the background, he's still popular. I think with Boris Johnson, there's a reasonably strong candidate up against him, even though I actually don't think Boris' heart is really into this. He's far more politically ambitious.

Ken provokes strong feelings with lots of people. He's a little too keen to grandstand with controversial political figures than I'd like, and I don't really see what he's trying to achieve, within the definition of his job, with that sort of activity.

Channel 4 - if you're in the business of doing hatchet jobs, you should be able to do a better job than this. You should be able to find plenty of people who have genuine reasons for wanting Ken out other than simple jealousy but that was the only reason I could detect from the bunch that was paraded on this show.

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