One of the things we’re going to miss when newspapers finally die — and their websites stop being pseudo-papers — is the extra oomph you can get from savvy layout. Thus in the Guardian today there’s a story on the reprieve from execution of Shambo, a TB-infected bull venerated by a community of Buddhist monks in Wales.

And opposite – news that Boris Johnson is a prospective official mayoral candidate for London, going up against Ken Livingstone. How many doomed mascots do you need?

Blond and bunterish, Johnson is the quintessentially British politician, who can’t decide whether he’s in statesmanship or panto. Famous most recently for being at Eton and then in the Oxford Bullingdon club with David Cameron, Johnson is better known for his gaffes – giving the address of a journalist to a con-man friend who had threatened to hurt the journo because of a negative story, calling the entire population of Liverpool whingers for not getting over the Hillsborough stadium tragedy, opining that Portsmouth was too full of drug users and Labour MPs and that Tory leadership contests made the place like Papua New Guinea, full of cannibals.

The stories are even funnier when you add in the names – the con-man was Darius Guppy. Johnson’s first wife was one Amanda Mostyn-Owen. Not Mostyn enough apparently, cos he was later finangling, first with Petronella “Petsy” Wyatt, followed by one Anna Fazarckley. His middle name is de Pfeffel. He is, inevitably, the Tory MP for Henley.

Though Johnson has a pretty sharp intelligence, his career is the epitome of failure upwards – sacked from journalism for falsifying quotes, very occasionally popping into the Spectator when he was editing it, and putting out the usual establishment detritus: collections of columns, a bad novel, a TV series etc.

His selection as mayoral candidate (website, here) would be an indication that the Tories have given up on it. Running a city is arguably more difficult than running a country, and as much as Ken Livingstone’s congestion charges and Hugo Chavez love-ins give people the irrits, he is recognisably someone who can run a heaving morass like London. Johnson on the other hand is best-known for locking himself out of his own house while being doorstopped about his affairs.

İndeed the fact that the Tories haven’t dared put up a small government candidate – someone who would argue for cutting rates, removing traffic limits, further privatising transport etc etc – shows how impossible genuinely right-wing politics has become in the UK. A serious free-market candidate would be spat out by the voters with a knock on effect for their national image.

Ken Livingstone is yet another beneficiary of Margaret Thatcher and the voters’ desperate fear of anything that sounds like laissez-faire ideology.

Only trouble is… all these people are implementing her policies…

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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