Why Lynton Crosby has ruined the London Mayoral elections

Would the real Boris please stand up?

I am not a greedy man. Ever since it was announced that the London Mayoral elections would be a contest between Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson, I have had to confront the fact that I would not be that happy with whoever ended up as mayor. Ken, in fairness, has done a good job in the role: a successful London congestion charge, the 2012 Olympics, a host of green regeneration projects, an impressive ability to placate Londons business folk and financiers. But after 8 years, recent controversies, the worst involving the allegation his race advisor misused public funds, have shown a dangerous arrogance and a growing distance from the electorate. Boris on the other hand, is a curious beast: clearly intelligent but with no experience of running a large organisation and a foot in mouth problem that makes Tourettes syndrome appear modest. Neither candidate deserves to run the UKs largest city.

The London Mayors job is also a strange creature: high profile because it is running one of the worlds true international cities, but limited because the Mayor has restricted powers to run the city (certainly in comparison to Paris and New York). For instance, some of the biggest issues for London, its dependence on financial markets, the restrictions placed on immigration outside of the EU and the state of Londons public services such as schools and hospitals are not properly within the London Mayors remit to combat. Planning, which the Mayor does have more control over, is a difficult issue, in which solutions below a city level on are often preferable. Therefore, Ive never had the expectation that the Mayor could solve all of Londons problems.

But candidate and policy concerns aside, forgive my superficiality but this election did promise a certain degree of entertainment. Both men are after all B-grade celebrities and wallow in this status. On the one side you had Red Ken with his unfailing ability to conjure controversy (recall he likened a journalist to a concentration camp guard and was then suspended from the position; more recently he has befriended Islamic extremists). And on the other side you had Boris Johnson, a man who despite his posh upbringing and previous stints on the Shadow Cabinet was more stand-up comedian than upstanding politician (he once in very poor taste referred to black people as picanninies). Throw into the mix a fiery former Metropolitan police commissioner and you had the makings of a highly entertaining campaign, part Monty Python, part pop-idol.

Enter stage left Lynton Crosby. Now let me give Crosby his dues. He is a formidable election manager. He got John Winston Howard elected more times than I care to remember and for a man who was previously considered unelectable that is a serious feat. Even his defeats – for example the recent Michael Howard campaign – was a relative success given what he had to work with. And Crosby cannot of course be blamed for the poor performances of Ken and the Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick. Kens speeches have appeared tired and jaded; Paddick with his talk about his police experience could make cardboard sound interesting.

But I still blame Crosby for ruining the London Mayoral elections. Crosbys plan has been to tighten the message of the Conservative campaign. That has meant preventing Boris from saying anything off script. No more random flights of Latinate or Grecian fancy, no private idle chats with journalists, no discussion of ignorant Liverpudlians. Winning the election for the Conservatives has meant preventing Boris from being Boris, turning a free wheeling, circus animal of a politician into a very well-behaved poodle. Sure, Mr Johnson retains his scruffy mop of blonde hair, and ever so often you see a cheeky grin emerging from his tight lips, but it is all gone in an instant. Staying on message has been Crosbys key campaigning device.

And yes, of course, it has worked. Crosby isnt an election guru for nothing. But what promised to be a highly entertaining, controversial contest has been rendered dull. By keeping Boris on such a tight leash, Crosby has deprived the election of its star performer. Crosbys professionalism has killed the contest as a media spectacle. Boris the bumbling, boisterous politician has been turned into Boris the bore. Sure it will probably win him the election, but there is more to elections than mere electoral success. Sometimes it matters that politics is authentic. Sometimes, in our  media saturated environment we hunger for something real. Sometimes we actually want something or someone to believe in. I think Lynton Crosby has taken that away from us. So though I never thought I would say this, could someone please bring back the real Boris Johnson? Bur please just not as mayor?

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15 Responses to Why Lynton Crosby has ruined the London Mayoral elections

  1. Enoch Powell says:

    I was right all along, you see Luvvies. Tally Ho

  2. Enoch Powell says:

    As someone who has lived in London for many years, I vote that Boris Johnson would be a godsend. A refreshing recrudescence of real Englishness – in all its irreverence, eccentricty, and unashamed rudeness – amidst the mire of po-faced multiculti philistine Luvvieness that has gripped London over the past decade.

  3. FDB says:

    That wasn’t funny at LP either, Greenfield.

  4. Enoch Powell says:

    FDB

    This is a promising sign. For you see, mirth was not the intended effect.

  5. FDB says:

    Had any mirth resulted, I might believe you John – for unintended is the only sort I’ve ever known you to cause.

  6. Jacques Chester says:

    I quite like what I’ve seen of Boris Johnson — the unashamedly erudite smartarse, in love with the theatrics of politics and with a highly developed sense of the ridiculous. He reminds me very much of a colleague from my student politics days, the Tomato Sauce Target, Clr Gareth Ward.

  7. David Rubie says:

    I really think the Crosby/Textor genius thing has been overrated. Sure, on paper, J-Ho was unelectable: unnattractive physically, reactionary, conservative to a fault. Given the 1983-1996 history of Australia, you’d have thought he’d have as much chance of winning an election as Simon Crean.

    However, that whole “underdog” thing was far, far more important than any supposed genius on the part of Crosby/Textor or that odious bloke who used to run the PM’s department who I’ve intentionally forgotten.

    Aussies love a good underdog story, they really do. Look at the election results from 1996 onwards – really pretty close every time. Australians felt sorry for the feisty little bloke. He was up against it his whole life with Peacock, Joh for PM, Hanson, terry-wrists, darkies on leaky boats who were dangerously republican and the constant threat of Costello threatening to stomp out of the room crying in a huff. The pressure must have been immense on those puny shoulders, so when he lifted the begging bowl and begged “please sir, can I have some more” the population obliged until the pot of sympathy was empty.

    It’s pretty clear that, instead of being an effective campaigner, Crosby is basically just an opportunist with no ideas and a fixed formula that just happened to coincide with success. He sure didn’t cause that success.

  8. Boris has been de-funned, you’re right. Mind you, if he gets elected, the funnster will return in full force. Crosby can’t micromanage the Mayor of London… surely.

  9. Anthony says:

    Oh, that Boris! But he didn’t just refer to black people as ‘picaninnies’ but went on to say something along the lines of “the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird”. It’s an attitude that encapsulates all the vicious arrogance – or arrogant viciousness – of 19th century colonialism. The man is a dangerous racist wastrel and slob. And I say that more out of sadness than anger

  10. Geoff Honnor says:

    Anthony, the much quoted racist attack on Africans was actually an attack on Tony Blair:

    “For ages, it seems, Supertone has been orbiting in his taxpayer-funded jet, descending to bring his particular brand of humbug to the trouble spots of the world. He did the namaste in Bangalore, and lo, the warring faiths of the Indian subcontinent immediately rescheduled World War Three. For a full 120 minutes, he and Cherie shone the light of their countenances upon the people of Afghanistan, and, who knows, perhaps the place is now rife with feminism, habeas corpus and multi-party democracy… They say he is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird. Like Zeus, back there in the Iliad, he has turned his shining eyes away, far over the lands of the Hippemolgoi, the drinkers of mares milk.”

    The “Big White Chief” reference is presumably about his perception of Blair’s ego rather than “an attitude that encapsulates all the vicious arrogance – or arrogant viciousness – of 19th century colonialism.”

    And Boris is actually the great grandson of a Turkish journalist who was briefly an Ottoman empire minister. Can’t get more multi-culti than that…….

  11. Boris Johnson (as channelled by Jack Greenfield) says:

    I say chaps, damn fine show. That pillock pondlife Red Ken thrust his fin at me in congratulations. Blast, one has little time for high-jinx as there is much to do. First up we need a jolly good clean out of all the wops and their feral picaninnies befouling the streets of Old Blighty with their droppings. My first decree is the free distribution of plastic gloves to all parents of picaninnies. The next is to excise all the – rotten – boroughs outside the Royal Borough. An exchange with Brittany would be just the ticket.

    So too all you Luvvies who helped rid us of the Red Terror (well he’s not such a bad egg after all), I say take up The Burden with me! Tally Ho!

    Take up the White Man’s burden–
    Send forth the best ye breed–
    Go, bind your sons to exile
    To serve your captives’ need;
    To wait, in heavy harness,
    On fluttered folk and wild–
    Your new-caught sullen peoples,
    Half devil and half child.

  12. david tiley says:

    Crooked Timber has brought out the blogosphere’s equivalent of the elephant gun on the bastard’s hide – a lump of fine New Statesman invective. Whether it is loaded with lead or bits of old macaroni is up to you and the future.

    I am inclined to the “evil toad” theory myself, but then I think London politics is the place where the Empire went to die, like a sick cat which finally ate a poisoned stoat.

  13. Anthony says:

    Thanks Geoff, for pointing out the exact context of Boris’s picaninnies and watermelon smiles comment. I’m as ready as the next person to have a go at Tony Blair for his overweening ego, and The Coalition of the Willing of which he was part have been able to realise a far more deadly contemporary manifestation of the imperial impulse than Boris and his poor old mates in opposition. Nevertheless, I think Boris was sailing very close to the wind in terms of the language he used to have a go at Blair. Did he or did he not think that these countries had seen aeroplanes before? It’s all too hard to tell – which is precisely Boris’s escape route.

    I pointed to him being an imperialist, not mentioning his ‘multi-culti’ (as you so cutely refer to to it) credentials. Pointing out that someone has antecedents in the ottoman EMPIRE, of all things, hardly absolves them from my claim.

    Anyhow, as for his ‘multi-culti’ credentials, he’s on the record for not being pro-multi-culti, but (as far as I can tell) he’d rather everyone fell about at Carry On movies.

    And David, London politics is fascinating. I began following Ken’s career back int the mid-1980s when he had transformed himself into a professional, full-time politician, which was a rare thing for local councillors. His tenure at the GLC ws interesting, but he was defamed and dismissed by the tabloids as the epitome of the “Loony Left” and as representing everything that was making Labour unelectable.

    This was demonology. If you’d asked Ken in the mid 1980s what would be his preferred agenda for an incoming Labour government, he would have said something like: “abolish hereditary peerages; invite the leadership of the IRA to Downing Street for peace talks; launch an inquiry into the institutional racism of the Metropolitan police force”. And he would have been dismissed as the “Loony Left” by the tabloids trying to generate a moral panic. But what did Tony Blair and “moderate” New Labour do in their first term?

  14. Pingback: Now is when Boris may really need public relations « Heather Yaxley - Greenbanana views of public relations and more

  15. Graham Bell says:

    Seamus C;

    Thanks a lot for your insights.

    Am I right in supposing that since Labour is now so much on the nose, if Ken Livingstone stood as the Red Marxist Bolshevik Proletariat candidate instead as the Labour candidate, he would still be Lord Mayor Of London?

    The presence of an Australian Election …. errrr, “Operator” on the scene does worry me though.

    Does that mean that henceforth whenever Australians front up to Immigration at Heathrow or Gatwick, we will be treated with the same thoroughness as are Nigerian investment consultants, Eastern European virgins, Colombian medicinals wholesalers, Turbanistan crew-served weapons purchasers and smiling gentlemen whose passport details seem to have been typed on two different typewriters? “Have another cup of tea while you’re waiting, Aunt Alice, it might be quite a while before we get through Immigration ….”

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