I’ve a piece in this week’s Spectator about the bandwagon of doom rolling towards London Labour – the prospect that they might actually go for a Ken-Boris rematch in the 2012 mayoral election. The selection, incredibly, will be decided this month. You’ll have to buy the mag if you want the full article – but here’s an extract:
“Ken’s platform is such an extraordinary heritage artefact that it should probably be eligible for a National Lottery grant. Everything which lost him the 2008 election – the gas-guzzler tax, the embrace of radical Islamists, the defiant denial of cronyism – is still in there, gibbering.
“He has promised to re-appoint his disgraced race adviser, Lee Jasper, who he claims has been ‘cleared’ by an independent inquiry (it actually said that Jasper’s behaviour in channelling millions of pounds to friends, including a woman he wanted to ‘honey glaze,’ was ‘inappropriate’ and ‘below the standards expected’ of a GLA officer.) He describes Boris’s election as a ‘sliver victory’ and says – I am not making this up – that if only four Tory boroughs didn’t exist, he would still be mayor right now!
“Labour ought to have quite a decent chance of regaining City Hall in 2012. At the recent general election, it won slightly more votes in London than the Tories. Boris’s was far from a ‘sliver’ victory – he won by 6 per cent, taking 21 of the 32 boroughs – but he will still be vulnerable to the government’s midterm unpopularity. The Lib Dem south-west suburbs, which voted for Ken in 2004 and Boris in 08, could easily switch back to Labour in protest at the coalition.
“But it’s very difficult to imagine any of that happening if the candidate is the Rip-van-Winkle, cryogenically-frozen Livingstone. He inspires both love – and passionate loathing. He hasn’t shown even the smallest sign of understanding why he really lost, or of reaching out to the centre vote he spurned. This week, as the tube strike brings large parts of London to a halt, Ken has not yet managed to find time in his busy schedule to condemn the strikers. Could that have anything to do with the fact that his campaign for the mayoralty is being run out of the headquarters of one of the striking unions?
“He claims he was defeated because of Labour’s national unpopularity; in fact, Labour was almost as unpopular in 2004, when he comfortably won. He says he ran ahead of his party in 2008 – true, but Boris also ran ahead of the Tory party, and by almost exactly the same margin. He thinks he can win simply by running against the government – without realising that Boris, too, is quite capable of running against the government.”
You re-run the 2008 election, with the 2008 candidates – and, barring some absolute disaster for Boris, you’ll get the 2008 result.
UPDATE: The Economist seems to agree with me.
FURTHER UPDATE: Livingstone’s spokesman has been in touch to say that Jasper has “moved on and will not be returning to City Hall.” That’s not what Ken promised when he resigned – his words were “I bet my own life the authorities will clear Lee Jasper and I will reappoint him when they do.” Ken’s maintained regular contact since, having Jasper on his LBC radio show to proclaim that he’s been cleared on several occasions.