We need to talk about Ken. This week you can’t help but empathise with Labour activists, pounding the streets campaigning for a man they largely find odious. Amidst Tory austerity this election should really belong to them. A red rosette pinned to a pig would do the trick. Failing that, the party chose Red Ken – a champagne socialist whose name has become a byword for hypocrisy. In what is essentially a two-horse race between Livingstone and the incumbent, a vote for Boris is surely right.
The fact that he is not Ken is by no means the only good reason to ‘Back Boris’. During his term in office he has bartered astutely with the Coalition to secure a good deal for London. Understanding the importance of a mid-term Tory win in the capital, the Chancellor George Osborne was careful to preserve the big-spending projects in Johnson’s fiefdom. Were Ken to win, the Olympic-sized tide of Whitehall spending would subside and Londoners would be forced to confront the cuts that Mancunians and Geordies are currently grappling with. The calculation here is implicitly one of blackmail: vote Tory, or the preferential treatment afforded to London stops.
Regardless, the truth remains that the capital is better off with Boris. His first term wasn’t transformative, but Londoners, ask yourselves, has the city improved under Boris’s watch? Council taxes? Cut. Crime? Cut. And the City Hall sleaze? Out. Add in a few goodies like Boris Bikes, the scrapping of the Western extension and, well, the man’s extraordinary bombast, and Boris’s second-term credentials seem fairly commendable. He is a competent, charismatic big-city mayor, confounding those who sneered at the prospect of a television personality running the world’s greatest city. Somehow the Eton and Balliol educated Boris – a former Union President nonetheless – embodies the diversity and dynamism of London better than any old, washed-out socialist could.
Charisma counts. This summer the world will come to London and, for a city that relies on international trade and whose vibrant culture is international, the face we choose to represent the name London matters. Boris can charm a crowd with his mix of rhetorical skill and mild eccentricity. Despite his bedraggled appearance, Mr Johnson has an indiscernible talent that makes him an asset to London in situations where Ken would be a liability. He’s independent , charismatic, and pays his taxes. Back Boris.