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Re: Boris Johnson wins Mayor of London

From:     Dave Death
Category: Art
Date:     03 May 2008
Time:     05:11 PM


Goodbye, King Newt
David T, May 2nd 2008, 11:58 pm

When I was a boy, I had a salamander as a pet. A European fire salamander, to be precise. The very 
same species that Ken Livingstone, famously, had also taken care of. It was doubly infuriating to hear 
the jibes about Ken and his newts: first, because they were not newts, and secondly because the 
jokes implied that those of us who cherished these unusual, but delightful creatures were in some way 

Ken came to my school to speak when I was 13. After his address was over, I went up to him. I 
started to ask him a question about amphibian husbandry. He turned to me and said:

“Oh, shut up!”

I am sad to say that I was pathetically crushed. I replayed the moment in my mind. Ken was a great 
man. He must have thought that I had come to tease him. He couldn’t really have intended to slap me 
down. If he’d known of our shared love for these little black and yellow spotted beasts, he would have 
spoken more kindly.

You see, the thing is, I have always really liked Ken. Yes, I know all about his dodgy past: how he 
came to power by way of a coup, his foolish association with the worst parts of the far Left, and all 
that. But he has star quality.

Ken Livingstone’s finest moment was in that first election campaign, of 2000. Here was Ken at his 
absolute best. Up against the Labour machine, to be sure, but presenting a modern, moderate, clean-
shaven face. A face you could trust. I was charmed by his unfeigned passion for London, our beloved 
city. I voted against the Labour candidate for the first time in my life.I wasn’t disappointed. Ken 
Livingstone’s first four years were magic. I don’t drive, but I do take buses, and I liked the idea of road 
pricing. He turned the South Bank into a beach, with fire jugglers and samba musicians on the sand. 
We felt like citizens of a capital city again. I voted for him a second time.

I wanted to support Ken. It is just that he didn’t want my support.

So, Ken has gone. You know why I, and many people like me, found we couldn’t support him. The 
taxpayer funded attacks on Peter Tatchell and Trevor Phillips. The corruption. The drooling over the 
Cuban royal family. The championing of Qaradawi, and the disgraceful attempt to represent this 
reactionary advocate of terrorism and theocracy, as a modern and progressive voice. The 
association with Socialist Action. The attempt to forge an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood. The 
unapologetic racist slurs. The leveling of the charge of racism against those who merely questioned 
his politics. The weirdness. The nastiness.

But that is not why Ken lost. At least not directly.

If you’re looking for an analysis of the reasons for this defeat, you couldn’t do much better than this 
short Guardian piece. A certain part of it is the general tiredness of this Government, after 11 years of 
rule. Northern Rock was a mess. Soaking the poor with the abolition of the 10% tax band was poison. 
And it doesn’t help that it is led by a man who seems to want to be Prime Minister, but who can’t 
articulate precisely why he was so desperate to occupy that position.

But still, Ken could have won. Some of my Labour HQ pals reckon that he could have had that third 
victory, if only the supporters could have been urged out of their armchairs. A Tory blogger put it to me 
this way, a few months ago. “Just as Ken turns Labour supporters off, he energises us Tories”, he 
said. “You’ll stay at home, and we’ll come out to vote”. And that was precisely what happened.

The fact is, I should have taken yesterday off work. It wasn’t that busy. I’m due some holiday. In fact, I 
was asked by my old ward secretary to come out and help. But I just couldn’t. Ken spent the last few 
years, reminding me again and again that he didn’t want my help. I know it isn’t just me who feels like 
this. I know lots of people who did go out canvassing for Labour, who knew that Ken, in power, would 
continue to dismay. The pull of party loyalty is very strong, but for the sake of a man who showed no 
such discipline himself, it was not enough for me.

Ken is a tragic figure, in the true Shakespearean sense. Like Coriolanus, his fatal flaw is arrogance. 
Just as Coriolanus would not please the mob by showing them his war wounds, Livingstone 
stubbornly rejected us, again and again. He didn’t need to. None of these issues really mattered all 
that much. The far Left’s love affair with Islamism is a bit of a side show. Politics is a rough and 
tumble game, and Tatchell can take the odd knock. But the thing is this. How can you place your 
hopes and ideals in a man who cares so little for them?

So Ken has gone. And now we have Boris. There are two scenarios for the next two years: both 
equally dismal for Labour supporters. The first is that Boris will bring the doleful Tory politics, which 
we saw off in 1997, back to our streets. The second, and more likely future, is that Boris will be charm 
personified: a moderate, friendly Tory who will dance in a thong on a float at Pride, erasing the 
memories of the days when the Tories were the Nasty Party. If Boris takes the first route, perhaps 
we’ll win back London, and retain the country, come the next set of elections. If Boris takes the 
second route then, unless he impregnates another heiress, he’ll probably end up ushering Cameron 
into No. 10.

The funny thing is, though: my pet salamander was called Coriolanus.

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