Tuesday 26 April 2011

Boris and The Machine

A letter arrived for Mrs Angry's son, at the end of last week.

'S'from Boris Johnson', he muttered, with an expression implying he might be about to about to screw it into a ball and aim it vaguely in the direction of the recycling bin.

'Why is Boris Johnson writing to you?' demanded his mother, snatching it off him.

'Wants to wish me happy birthday or something.'

She read on, suspiciously:

Dear X,

Congratulations on turning 18. This is a huge milestone. You can now vote or stand for election as a Councillor, MP or even Mayor of London.

When I turned 18, Prince William was about to be born in St Mary's Hospital, Paddington. British troops had just recaptured the Falkland Islands. The Cold War was at its height, and in many ways the world was a grimmer place. So I think one of my first actions was to go and exercise my legal right to have a drink in a pub - in moderation, of course.

You are turning 18 at one of the most exciting times in London's history. The eyes of the world are on us as we gear up to next summer's Olympics. The Games alone are creating a huge number of opportunities for young Londoners like yourself, not to mention the thousands of new jobs and homes.

Ever since my 18th I have enjoyed my life as an adult citizen of the best big city on earth, and I hope you will too. I look forward to the vital role you will play in making London even greater.

Best wishes,

Boris Johnson

Mayor of London.

Awfully good of Boris to send birthday greetings, of course. Three months late, but then, skipping to the bottom of the letter I notice, in teeny weeny print, a clue as to why he is suddenly so attentive - it says ... Promoted by Chris Scott, on behalf of LondonConservatives/BackBoris2012.

Ah. Oh, hang on though - long time to the GLA & mayoral elections, isn't it? Of course, next week we have that other thing, don't we - the AV vote?

And what, you may be thinking, are Mrs Angry's views on AV? Well, at heart, Mrs Angry does not give a flying you know what about AV. She will only be voting because a. if she doesn't exercise her right to vote she feels guilty about the suffragettes and b. in the hope of upsetting Nick Clegg and the rest of the treacherous LibDems. She hates the thought of voting the Tory approved way, and acknowledges that AV would cut them down to size in a pleasing manner, but the thought of more coalition governments even worse than this one is too high a price to pay.

But back to the Mayor's letter: who is really hoping to benefit from this load of birthday greetings to new voters: the Back Boris campaign, or the the Tory No to AV campaign? A subtle reminder to new voters that they can exercise their new rights, and a nudge in one particular, if unlikely, direction? I am sure that all election expense regulations have been carefully studied and followed, of course. And frankly, whatever the purpose of this letter, it is a complete and utter waste of time and money.

I can't think of any eighteen year old who would be remotely impressed by Boris's attempts to wow them with allusions to aah, loved up Prince William, or the good old days when we could rejoice, rejoice over our retro empire military actions in the Falklands, or trying to impress them with the somewhat passe threat of the Cold War ... Oh, and most eighteen year olds have been exercising their illegal rights to drink in a pub for sometime, Boris, btw. As for the Olympics, this has as much interest to my son & his mates as it has to me, ie none whatsoever, and he is not foolish enough to swallow the line about the games giving him new opportunities, or creating jobs and homes.

I note that in this letter the Mayor tries his best to avoid any mention of current political issues. Can understand why. If Boris actually knows any ordinary eighteen year old Londoners, of course, he would be more than conscious that the one thing that has awakened their political consciousness is the fact that the Tory LibDem government has blighted their future lives with the burden of paying back thousands of pounds of tuition fee bills.

What is interesting, though, about the mailshot campaign, is that hello: a Tory politician has perhaps recognised that there is a young electorate out there, increasingly politicised, and threatening to undermine the party's success in future elections.

My two teenage children see the Mayor as nothing more than a joke, a comic figure: they have no idea what happens at the GLA, and care even less. Their apathy is hardly surprising: and after all - it is a valid question - what is the point of the GLA? Why do we need a mayor? Why do the Tories, who are so much against interference by government, and red tape, and bureaucracy, and quangos, and oh, unneccessary budgets, care so much about an administrative body which has risen defiantly from the ashes of the one they burnt down with such glee?

The GLA is one of those concepts which really exists only in its own imagination, in the council chamber at City Hall. Ask any Londoner what good it does for them, and I'll bet you'll get no sensible response: most people will be at a loss to think of anything. A few jokes about Boris bikes and buses, and a bit of a moan about the congestion charge, will be all. Those who live in the outer boroughs, especially, almost completely fail to feel any connection at all with the London Assembly.

In this area, of course, we are blessed with our current GLA representative, aren't we? Step forward Brian Coleman. Let's have a closer look. He receives £53,439 a year for this post, and what do we, the long suffering constituents, get in return? F*ck knows. Bearing in mind busy Brian has to squeeze it into an enormously challenging workload - councillor and cabinet member here in Broken Barnet, his hugely popular role as conciliator at the London Fire Brigade, and something at the Local Government Association, and stuff to do with the North London Waste Authority - run off his darling, dainty little feet.

Of course what he actually does at City Hall is anybody's guess. We know from his gifts and hospitality declarations that he goes to luncheons, dinners, and receptions from time to time. There is a lovely photo of him having a little kip at his desk, and there are a couple of amusing films on youtube, such as the 'Odious Toad' outburst, which give us a helpful indication of what the old routine might be like, but otherwise ...

But whatever Brian does, he certainly wants to carry on doing it, at our expense, and his Tory colleagues apparently agree. To do this, unfortunately for him, stuck as we are with a few last obstinate traces of democracy, even with within the limitations of what passes for the weird GLA electoral system - he will have to be re-elected. Ha. Slight problem, there, as you might imagine.

Last week saw Andrew Dismore gain the nomination of Labour candidate as our GLA consituency. Good news for us: bad news for Brian. Dismore is a highly experienced candidate, with a long parliamentary career, and a reputation for being a hard working, conscientious MP. Oh dear.

According to journalist and blogger Richard Osley last month, Brian may just realise what a delicate position he is now in: Osley alleged that Lynton Crosby, the Australian 'political strategist'

'will turn up to a branch meeting to herald the start of his re-election campaign at the end of the month. I’ve been told he will brief party activists on what they must work on to avoid any avoidable slip-ups.'

Now, Crosby is largely credited with the success of Boris's own campaign to be Mayor: a victory few might have predicted at one stage - can he really work a miracle for our Brian? Mrs Angry suggests that it will take a little more than a pep talk with a few doddery local activists. Maybe he'll try to get Coleman down wiv da youth, send them all birthday cards, start tweeting and facebooking? Mrs Angry's own advised strategy, offered for free, would probably involve imprisonment in a dark cellar for twelve months, black magic, and possibly a spot of human sacrifice. Failing that, she suspects that Lynton Crosby may find his workload even more demanding than it first appeared.


Ian said...

Shame on you Mrs A for rejecting a change to our voting system that will give the voters a bit more of a say! Your friends the Barnet Tories run the Council on the basis of 40.6% of the votes in 2010 and you don't think all the voters whose votes were wasted deserve any better??

baarnett said...

Not attracted to the new politics of the AV world, then Mrs A?

Whether there would be more coalitions isn't clear - some European countries have coalitions anyway all the time.

Wouldn't it be attractive that Brian Coleman had to rely on over 50% of the vote (when extended to local government)?

baarnett said...

Broken Barnet
Breaking news: Barnet Council admits only one MetPro film destroyed - Today I received an email from the head of Corporate Governance, or whatever it is called this week, in reply to points raised about MetPro and the infamou...


Mrs Angry said...

I've just realised that in this post I have aligned myself twice with the same opinions as Coleman: on AV and the Olympics. Someone please help me. Am I on the turn?

It's not that I am happy with the present system, chaps: I just do not think that the AV replacement is good enough. When someone comes along with something better, I might be persuaded.

Mrs Angry said...

sorry baarnett, Mrs Angry is having a difficult evening: blog publishing probs, sticky onion gravy, dropped pan, burnt hand, swearing, tears, usual day in the life. Hope to republish in a few minutes ...