I think it was Frederic Jameson who once said of postmodernism “It’s a beautiful set of curtains. When you pull them back, all you see is a brick wall”. Boris Johnson is much the same: he’s concerned with the superficial; what lies beneath is of no matter or interest to him. Many people see his buffoon-ish exterior and either fail or refuse to look beyond his surface. Whichever is the case, what does that say about the postmodern voter? That they are unable to conceive of anything beyond the clowning exterior? That they are taken in by Johnson’s faux jocularity and are distracted by it? More than likely.
Boris Johnson really should be in short trousers, with a catapult jammed into his back pocket and jammy marks on his face. His tendency to treat everything as a joke and to behave like a naughty schoolboy endears him to those whose protective instincts are heightened by his appearances on television and elsewhere. But they are being misled.
The list of Johnson’s achievements is small
- Bendy buses and introduction of ‘new’ Routemasters
- Abolition of the Western Congestion Charge Zone
- The implementation of the so-called Cycle Superhighways
- The unnecessary cable car between the North Greenwich peninsula and Royal Victoria Dock
- The hire bike scheme
Out of these five ideas, two of them came from Ken Livingstone and the others largely came about as a result of a marriage between blatant electioneering and political vanity. On balance, Johnson has produced few ideas that have directly benefitted Londoners. The abolition of the Western Congestion Charge Zone has increased traffic levels in that area, not to mention the amount of air pollution. Smoke, mirrors and nonsense.
This election, Johnson has put forward little in the way of substantive policies. His transport manifesto, for example, looks like most of it was nicked from some of Ken’s old ideas. The manifesto also calls for a DLR extension to Bromley. The only reason why Bromley is being touted as the future terminus of a DLR branch is because much of Johnson’s support comes from boroughs like Bromley. In the early 1980’s, it was the borough that scuppered Livingstone’s Fares Fair Policy by taking the GLC to court. Londonlist also notes that “the manifesto is littered with Livingstone-bashing, most of it hanging around the theme that only Boris Johnson can “negotiate with government” to get the best deal for the capital”.
There is a serious housing shortage in London and I have heard nothing from Johnson’s camp about how he intends to tackle this most serious of issues. House prices have increased and rents in the private sector are ridiculously expensive. The Tory-led government’s Housing Benefit cap will not ease matters, they will make things worse. As far as I can tell, Johnson supports the benefit cap. Indeed, the attitude of this government and Tory-controlled councils like Hammersmith & Fulham, towards the housing crisis is to kickstart another property boom. But didn’t that partly lead to the current economic crisis? Didn’t the property boom also come at a cost to the rented sector? Yes and yes.
The only reason why this election contest has become so personalized was to deflect attention away from Johnson’s dearth of ideas. This tactic was most certainly hatched in Lynton Crosby’s foetid mind.
Finally, I would like to point out that Johnson isn’t the only postmodern politician; Tony Blair and David Cameron also fit the profile. But Johnson has developed it into a fine art. When interviewers attempt to penetrate his shroud of mist and fog, he responds by talking over them and uttering nonsense. He’s all fizz and pop. He and Crosby want to subject Londoners to another four years of the same muddleheaded thinking. And it’s all for the sake of vanity.
Londoners deserve better.