When I was knee high to a pea plant, I started getting interested in politics (in a vain hope to sound intelligent when trying to pick up birds). My mother told me a quote which still sticks to my mind, she said: "Son, you will be torn between two feelings when somebody you know gets elected to high office, namely local pride and fear for your country". I am facing the same situation here as far as the elections for the Mayor of London are concerned.
I don't know what side of the bed London got out of those thousands of years ago, but it has been peculiarly afflicted with challenges starting from floods, fire, plague, war, bombing, riots, death, destruction, overpopulation, stinking sewers, collapsed or creaking infrastructure and has ended up with a seriously amusing Mayoral election. In today morning's metro, I read that Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik is going to stand for the position of Mayor of London. I was struck by two feelings.
I have written about London versus NY, but how come NY gets political giants such as Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg and we, well, we get to choose between Red Ken, tousled haired Boris Johnson and Cheeky Lembit. And the second was, why the heck are we faced with these "worthies"?
The only thing that is common between these chaps is that they are all very eccentric. Best way to describe them. Red Ken is an unreconstructed communist from the hard hard left, prone to making gaffes such as taking 300 quid taxi rides, getting into a war with the American embassy in London, being found guilty of anti- semitism, telling Americans that they are stupid (this speech while wanting to increase tourist numbers … Americans constitute the biggest number tourists to UK).
Don't get me wrong, he has pushed for good things in London like the congestion charge, trying to improve the transportation infrastructure, etc. He is ferociously intelligent, mind you but he is very eccentric. Never a dull moment with our Red Ken! Then you have Boris, who pissed off the Liverpudlians by saying that they were a maudlin lot. He then had to go to Liverpool and publicly apologize, a modern day stock punishment! Boris participates in a comedy programme on BBC and is hugely popular, very intelligent and edits a high brow magazine. He was caught doing a bit of risqué' hanky panky. Boris drives a good bicycle (looks absolutely ludicrous in lycra), has the most entertaining turn of speech and well, has a signature (I am pushing it by calling it style, but you know what I mean).
And then you have Lembit Opik. I know, you must be going, Lembit who? Well, Lembit's claim to fame is that he is dating a Romanian one song shot pop star, Gabriela Irimia (along with her twin Monica Irimia) sang one song which hit the charts. The song, Cheeky Girls, sung by these two lovely young ladies, showed them in a tiny pair of shorts gyrating in a demented fashion while leaping around like a new born gazelle and asking people to touch their bum's. Well, Lembit dates one of them. Again, he is quite bright, very intellectual and has a very firm grasp of public policy but if he gets elected, the closest I can think of as an example would be John Edwards with Paris Hilton as his wife going for the US Presidency. Can you imagine Paris Hilton as the First Lady? Well, you got it.
The only explanation I can come up with is that the powers enjoyed by the London Mayor are so little (compared to NY), that only those people who are on the political fringes and are unable to aim for a serious political career tend to apply for this role. It is more prestige rather than action. This is unlike in NY, where the Mayoralty is substantial with tax raising powers and ability to direct investment. So we get these clowns and Londoners, themselves a very hardy and eccentric breed (remember the case where the overwhelming reaction after the London bombings was, "we are a bit inconvenienced but nothing that a cuppa tea wouldn't resolve", while see how NY reacted after 9/11? They went to war, while we drank some tea! Ah! I love this city, its people and country.
And I support Boris Johnson. I had enough of Red Ken's eccentricities. I need a different eccentric personage leading London now, so let the Circus Londonium Maximus Show begin.