Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Very British Vote

The recent London mayoral election is in my view something of a revolution. Sure, this may come across as a bit of a hyperbole, but the facts are unsettling: 32% electoral turnout with one polling station in Bristol reporting a measly 6% voting attendance. Not to mention, the Liberal Democrats taking the brunt of the nation’s anger, as they are cornered into fourth place in the race for City Hall by the Greens. These are the facts worthy of mention. Boris Johnson’s re-election and the dire national results for the Tories, well these are merely technicalities – things which were decidedly easy to see looming over the horizon.

I personally refused to cast a vote. The Boris vs Ken boxing match was a stuffy, malodorous rumble in the urban jungle which only gave endless fodder for the Evening Standard’s editorial section. It was based not so much on promises as political campaigns almost always tend to be, but on a kind of acerbic ego-wrestling which rained pure, vapid negativity onto the already weary electorate. From Ken’s cavalier refusal to clear up his murky tax affairs, to Boris Johnson’s ‘fucking liar’ antics in the BBC lifts, the long-suffering, unemployed, dream-shattered common man became even more of a statistic, as his voice was drowned out by those two proud men’s contumely.

I was sympathetic to nobody in this election. Ken was more presentable than Boris, nowhere near as clownish but his cheaply populist political decisions, particularly prior to the previous election in 2008 are still hard to ignore. Boris’ politics, on the other hand, seem to rest on what is a typically British peculiarity, namely his quirkiness. You have the messy blonde hair; you have the bulbous face with the Falstaff-like manner: you have Boris. Even his name wades into our subconscious with the trappings of grandeur and that bit more quirkiness. He could effortlessly step into David Jasons’ shoes in Only Fools and Horses, or in more contemporaneous terms, play the lead role in a brusque Little Britain sketch. It is little wonder that predominantly middle-class, ‘leafy’ boroughs of London opted for him and even less of a surprise that my quintessentially British, white workmates swung the ball in the direction of the eccentric Etonian in our own in-house mini-vote. The largely white, relatively well-educated middle class, whose native love for glib remarks and pithy comebacks, vie for his affections. His quirkiness works on a subconscious level for them, and because this segment of the electorate represents mostly people who would usually make an effort to vote, Boris’ chances of winning were ever that bit higher.