I’ve set up a permanent camp with fellow Boris-Watchers over at Boris Watch (.co. the UK), so please join us there to continue watching Boris.
Also, please keep tip-offs, news items, etc., coming to email@example.com!
I’m hoping to start my blog at some point, too, covering broader aspects of politics, news, the media, London, and general observations and comments (because there aren’t enough blogs already covering these areas…). I’m struggling to think of a name for it, though, so I can’t start it yet! I’ll keep the Stop Boris faithful informed, of course.
My Boris Watch posts so far (at time of posting), oldest first:
- Jack of five trades, master of none?
- Boris Johnson: ghastly, dehumanized moron
- Watch Boris
- Boris lies to the Assembly
- State of London Debate slashed
- Translucent Boris reneges on another pledge
- BBC London on Boris’s translucency
- Boris’s turn to be an (honorary) Deputy
- Boris on BBC London tomorrow evening
- Boris on the Andrew Marr Show
- What’s Boris learned so far? Rubbish!
- Whoops! Half a million pounds slip past Boris
- Caption competition
- Forensic spin
- Rise and the fall of ‘anti-racism.’
- “Man of detail?” asks BBC London, two months too late
- Yes, Boris didn’t propose, authorize or know about the axing of ‘anti-racism.’
That list is not to imply that others’ posts aren’t at least as worth your time reading. They’re all great. Just read the entire Boris Watch archives if you haven’t already!
Thursday, 15 May 2008, 9.01, by Mr. Stop Boris
I’m not properly back from my blogging break until mid-June, but I have just contributed an item to Boris Watch – the .co.UK version, not the “Boris is hilarious” .com version, of course – and I did say I’d let faithful RSS subscribers and other visitors know if I was writing anywhere else. So now I have done.
This is the item:
Saturday, 3 May 2008, 17.47, by Mr. Stop BorisFirst, thanks to Mrs. Stop Boris for holding the fort so well all day yesterday. I did get home in time for the result, but she had things under control here, so I didn’t need to face posting myself in the deeply depressing circumstances.
What a truly awful outcome.
Boris Johnson will become Mayor of London tomorrow night, and the BNP’s odious thug-in-a-beige-suit Richard Barnbrook will simultaneously take a seat on the London Assembly.
There’s no point beating about the bush in summing up what this means for our nine months’ work and our every spare minute of the past two:
The Stop Boris campaign failed in its headline objective and additional appeal.
On the plus side, given our final voting recommendation (which has been viewed by 1,700 unique web users), I think it would not be immodest to claim that we did have some effect on the voting. Turnout was up by around 20% on 2004, and Ken Livingstone received over 200,000 more votes – about 25% more than in 2004, after the reallocation of second preferences. (His first-preference voting figures were boosted by a similar number, representing around third more votes than last.)
These figures suggest that the threat of Boris, promoted by us and others, did motivate more people to the polls and more people to vote against him. So why, despite such success, did we ultimately fail?
Impossible to overcome
The trouble is, for all our volunteer efforts and the grassroots movement against Boris – and notwithstanding the £400,000-odd spent by the Labour party promoting Ken – the sheer scale and organization of the Back Boris campaign in all its guises proved impossible to overcome. They doubled the first-preference votes cast for the Conservative mayoral candidate in 2004. watching Boris.
It’s well known that the official campaign spent around £ 1 million to send their ‘time for a change’ message. On top of this, you had the ‘money-couldn’t-buy-it’ support of a range of right-wing media outlets, most effectively the Evening Standard, whose advertising boards are seen by millions of potential voters, day in, day out, as they walk around the city. While only 180,000-odd people [should that hyphen be there? The statement works in an equally valid sense without it ] buy the paper; the value of those boards should not be underestimated. Their often shockingly misleading headlines, taken in by passers-by over months, fuelled a grossly overstated perception of ’sleaze’ and ‘corruption’ in Ken Livingstone’s administration and a positive perception of Boris’s chances and suitability for the role as a replacement Mayor.
And where did that £ 1 million campaign budget go? It went on Lynton Crosby’s cynical and manipulative campaign, which was designed to build up strong anti-incumbent feelings through half-truths and repeated attacks while giving as little detail as possible on a bland and vague manifesto containing focus group-tested phrases and sweeping, undetailed pledges on unarguable issues like wanting to cut crime. The money also went on regular, targeted, glossy leaflets and letters to encourage the core vote and tempt the swing voters. More controversially, it also paid people as far afield as Australia to conduct a covert astroturfing campaign against opposing journalists and bloggers. watching Boris.
The combined might of the Mail/Standard, Telegraph, and Murdoch groups of newspapers, the motorists’ lobby, the anti-environmentalist lobby, BNP supporters’ second-preference votes, the anti-Ken protest vote, the anti-Labour protest vote, the Lynton Crosby cynical marketing effort, and of course the LOLBorisROFL!!!!1! Contingent couldn’t be fought back against successfully enough.
Vague feelings and meaningless pronouncements
Contrary to a pro-Boris comment on one of Mrs. Stop Boris’s posts yesterday, we will not be eating and choking on our words now. Over the past two months, I stand by everything I’ve blogged and written on StopBoris.org. I would challenge anyone to find factual inaccuracies or unfounded opinions on this blog, were it not too late for it to matter now, and were I not intent on taking a considerable break from blogging and getting involved in Boris-related arguments? From today.
This election was not fought and won by Boris on the policy details. Who would vote against the idea that affordable housing should be available to households with a joint income of £30,000 rather than the £60,000 Boris’s planned scheme requires (putting it out of reach of 80% of Londoners)? Who would vote for an erroneously costed bus plan rejected by just about every bus expert in the industry? The list of such things is already well known and now academic, but it’s illustrative that this election was fought and won on vague feelings and meaningless pronouncements. watching Boris.
So where does this leave London now? We can only wait and see how Boris runs his Mayoralty, but if this is how he treats his supporters, it doesn’t look good for the open and inclusive leadership he promised.
In all fairness (perhaps too much fairness!), his acceptance speech last night was moderate and inclusive-sounding. Interestingly, in his speech, he essentially offered Ken Livingstone a job in his administration, and in Ken’s speech, he accepted the offer. Giving Boris a helping hand by not completely messing up London through maladministration is undoubtedly in the best interests of the city, so I won’t dwell on my nagging gut feeling that it would, in some sense, be more satisfying to see Boris left to his own devices to preside over a complete farce for four years. The less progress made in the past eight years that is set back in the next four years, the better, however frustrating it could be, if an unexpectedly stable administration threatens the re-election of Boris in four years.
But what can we expect to happen over the next four years?
Boris has made a lot of unachievable promises. We will see increased strikes on the Underground if he attempts to impose a no-strike deal on the RMT union. We’re unlikely ever to see a new open-backed Routemaster-style bus hitting London’s streets. His ‘big idea’ for a Thames Estuary airport is almost unthinkable. And his proposed police budget cuts and lack of firm proposals or targets on cutting crime risk a return to rising crime, or at best merely a slowdown in crime reduction, rather than the falling crime enjoyed for the past five years. watching Boris.
With Boris as Mayor and the BNP on the Assembly, we could also see race-hate crime on the increase in the capital for the first time in many years, following years of the capital bucking the national trend with a fall versus a rise elsewhere.
(The significance of the BNP’s Assembly win should not be overstated, however: while it represents a depressing level of BNP support and a symbolic victory for a bunch of racist thugs, their single Assembly seat gains them minimal public expenditure and virtually zero power, so the fact they didn’t gain two seats and thus a staffed office offers some comfort.)
We can also expect Boris to be far less proactive on environmental matters and more motorist-focussed. News footage of him leaving his home for City Hall this morning showed him being driven away in a huge people carrier, in stark contrast with the exiting Mayor’s use of public transport to get around in almost all circumstances. We know he plans to rephase traffic lights to favor cars over pedestrians: let’s see if pedestrian road casualties continue to fall under his leadership or, as seems more likely, not.
It’s important that we Boris-stoppers continue to scrutinize him now he has been elected Mayor. There’s a lot of scope for broken promises and more scope still for undermining progress in this world-leading city in any number of policy areas.
Some have suggested that we at Stop Boris are well placed to exercise this scrutiny. We’re certainly better placed than his official scrutineers, the London Assembly, who are completely toothless due to Boris’s party holding more than the third of seats needed to be able to nod through his budgets without reading them.
We are, however, also exhausted, demotivated, upset, depressed, and above all, thoroughly fed up with watching this objectionable man blathering on in news bulletins and statements after two months of non-stop, often painful Boris-watching – and in dire need of a break.
There’s no harm admitting at this stage what many of you will have read between the lines over that period: Stop Boris has essentially been a one-person operation, ably assisted (not to mention lovingly tolerated!) by that one man’s wife. Sure, the Facebook group has nearly 2,000 members. We’ve had plenty of supporting comments, e-mails, and even some active on- and off-line campaigning for the cause, but the vast bulk of the work has taken place in a single suburban (Zone 6, no less – ‘put that in your pipe and smoke it,’ Mr. Crosby ) living room.
Before I sign off for the last time, I’d like to thank several people for their help, support, and information over the past few months. watching Boris
- Mrs. Stop Boris, for everything!
- The donor of the StopBoris.org domain and web space, without which we would have had far, far less impact.
- The Tory Troll for setting up exactly the kind of blog I would probably have set up if I’d ever bothered before Stop Boris and breaking lots of interesting news throughout the campaign, including being first to the news of the BNP backing Boris. I’d suggest the Troll as the best place to go if you’re looking for a blog to plug the gap left by the Stop Boris blog.
- Dave Hill for running by far the most comprehensive coverage of the entire election anywhere on the web.
- Liberal Conspiracy for giving us some good promotion in the crucial last couple of weeks of the campaign.
- All the other bloggers who’ve linked to us and helped spread our message – I daren’t try to list them all as I will undoubtedly miss some out, but I seriously appreciated every single bit of promotion of this site.
- Contrary to many of the more outraged comments on pro-Ken or anti-Boris articles, covered the Guardian covers the election with moderation and balance for the most part. The people who’ve criticized this newspaper as a mouthpiece for the Ken campaign, contrasting it unfavorably with the Evening Standard, have engaged their typing fingers rather quickly than their brains.
- All the Boris-stoppers who’ve been in touch with us tipped us off about articles, played an active role on- and off-line in spreading the anti-Boris message, even singing our campaign song for us or creating other songs/videos, and just generally offered their support to our efforts.
- And of course, you, the Stop Boris blog readers, all 3-5,000 (understanding webstats seems to be an imprecise science) of you. Thanks for justifying my outpourings’ worthwhileness by reading them! watching Boris
So, for now, that’s it for the Stop Boris blog.
I wish all Londoners the best in coping with yesterday’s disastrous result, and above all, I hope Boris is not as bad as we’ve feared he will be. For someone so convinced everything I’ve blogged about Boris over the past two months has been fundamentally correct, for London’s sake, I now hope just as strongly to be proven wrong about the consequences of his election for the city I love.