Wednesday, 4 January 2006

Slap of the Year

I’ve just spent two days trying to install my printer onto my laptop because my PC is really on the blink this time so there were a few contenders to the title, including my bathroom and other pesky people/artefacts/organisations, but the winner, the one that really took the biscuit this past year is... Our Ken... Our Mayor... Ken Livingstone!

To think that I helped elect him to that post! I’m not allowed to vote in the ‘big’ elections with the adults since I’m not a British subject (there are no citizens in this country because of Queenie), but they let me put a tick in front of that man’s name and he became Mayor of London and I could kick myself.

Ken Livingstone used to be the head of the GLC (Greater London Council) when Thatcher was Prime Minister. At the time there was a smear campaign against him; he was nicknamed Red Ken because of his left-wing excesses, as perceived by the Conservatives, but when Labour got in we all voted for Ken to be our spokesman and defend us against Central Government. He seemed to be the right man for the job.

Alas, we hadn’t yet realized the size of his ego. Everything he’s done has been to his own advancement and Londoners blame him for making their lives a misery, mostly because of the Congestion Charge and the preposterous increase in public transport fares.

It’s all very paradoxical: the Congestion Charge was created to:
1) relieve… erm… congestion in the streets of London
2) discourage commuters from driving into the city
3) encourage people to use public transport
4) provide funds to improve public transport

It didn't really had much effect, except maybe upsetting the owners of businesses situated within the Congestion Charge zone, so Ken decided to enlarge the zone. He held a referendum about it and the overwhelming response was a resounding ‘No’. Did he listen to the people he’s supposed to represent? Of course not.

Tube and bus fares have also increased just now – by the most incredible percentage. What will this do? It will encourage people to start using their cars again. Go figure!

If that weren’t enough, Ken is also a kind of loose cannon in his public life. Power has gone to his head and he’s lost touch with how a representative of the people is supposed to behave. Last year he compared Oliver Finegold, an Evening Standard journalist, to a concentration camp guard after being told he was Jewish. He has so far stubbornly refused to apologize.

But, then, he had previously embraced Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian theologian who advocates the murder of homosexuals and Israeli civilians, and beating-up women. Just the kind of man you’d want to be publicly associated with!

I’m telling you, I could kick myself, but in the meantime I’m slapping Ken Livingstone with all my might. SLAP!

Update: I've just read that Ken recently declared, “I am pleased to be able to host the lighting of the Menorah at City Hall. Hanukkah is an important period in the Jewish calendar commemorating the Jewish struggle for religious freedom. In recognition of this, I intend this to be an annual event at City Hall. I would like to wish London’s Jewish communities a very happy Hanukkah.”

A hypocrite - on top of everything else. As we say in French, Il a tout pour plaire.


  1. Yes, I'm disappointed in him too. I don't know whether it's the usual corruption of power, but I find him arrogant in a way that's just not acceptable in a public servant. He doesn't seem to think he has to answer to anybody, not the people or even his own advisers. It really raises the question of what a mayor of a city should be for.

    I have the choice now of paying £6 return fare on the creaky old tube or £8 congestion charge, and that £2 is no deterrent at all, I'm going to start driving in again. So it all just becomes a way to collect money, another hidden tax on city life, instead of an admirable environmental policy. I also hate the privatised parking and road police. I put two wheels into a bus lane for about three metres to get around a stalled lorry, and got fined £100.

  2. I'm afraid you need to KICK him hard. You're partly mad at yourself. Let that go. You voted on the information that you had.

    Now, you get to slap him. Hard. Or fart in his general direction.

  3. I am sorry I am not following the charges for public transportation, break this down into "American speak".

    It cost $12 for a return fare on the subway? And around a $16 fine for driving during rush hours or what? I do know that arrogance has no place in the public persona. And not answering to anyone, he obviously "answers" to every single person that nominated him for office.

    An apology should be forced in regards to the comparison he made using the journalist and the concentration camp guard. It bothers me to even type that.

  4. London is in an appalling condition these days---what a shame! I blame the beginning of this most recent decline on Maggie T, no suprises there, but why has the trajectory been so headlongingly down for two decades? Shame, shame, shame.
    And on a much lighter note, as the idiotic tv anchors say, Happy New Year to you, wonderful writer and thinker J!

  5. No suRprises, I meant to say. Of course.

  6. I'm quite conflicted about Ken. I've admired him ever since the '80s but the episode with the Standard reporter, the fight he got into a few years back and that Islamic extremist all sicken me. I suspect he drinks quite heavily and becomes a very unpleasant drunk.

  7. GSE, wasn't there some mini-scandal a couple of years ago where he got drunk and pushed a girfriend over a balcony at a party? Can't remember what came of that.

    SL - using, I worked out that a return fare on the subway is $10.50. That's for the shortest journey within the central zone, which could be just one stop. The 'congestion charge' is a daily charge for driving into the central city zone in your car, and is $14. Ken wants to make this zone cover double the current size and include much more residential areas - I guess the euivalent would be to start with downtown Manhattan and then include north Manhattan. And the fine for driving in a bus lane, or getting stuck over a junction, is $175, straight off.

  8. Oh, and if you forget to pay the congestion charge on the day you drive in, before 10pm, but remember by midnight (you pay it online or by phone), you get an automatic fine of $87.50 on top of the charge, and if you remember next morning, the fine is $175. The charge applies from, I think, 7 in the morning, all day until 6.30pm, not just rush hours, and it catches me when I want to go to the theatre in the evening, because I have to enter the zone at around 6.15pm to get to the theatre in time. So I pay the $14 to be in the zone for 15 minutes.

  9. I am so glad you're slapping. I feel infinitely more informed about another place outside my frozen north after reading this post. I divide my time between very locally oriented days of public service and nights of effete aesthetic work. It sounds like hell there. And I thought London was supposed to be the place to move! Still I'm attracted.

  10. Oh, goody, I don't have to explain about the CC and fares. Thanks, L!

    Appalling, isn't it?

    Farting would do as much damage as slapping, I'm sure, TLP. Maybe I should have called my blog Fart of the Day. LOL!

    Happy New Year to you, Laura! And thanks for the kind words. :-)

    Hey, I remember that scandal with the girlfriend. How do these people get away with that kind of behaviour?

    Cait, London can be a great city to live in. It's got lots of wonderful assets, but it's the most expensive city in Europe (2nd most expensive in the world!) and everything seems to be geared to make our lives difficult. Alaska seems a pleasant proposition right now. (They showed Insomnia a few days ago. Nice landscape.) I'd stay where you are, if I were you: your life sounds very organized and well balanced.

  11. excuse me. off-topic, but I've heard great things about your organizational skills and wonder if you would tell us about your patented 'lots of separate pieces of paper' technique? ♥ xoxo

  12. Oh, yes, the famous 'lots of separate pieces of paper' system. It's very simple: instead of a To Do list that you have to rewrite every morning because you haven't managed to do half the things you'd intended to do the day before, you write one - yes, only one! - task per piece of paper. Et voilà! No annoying crossing out and rewriting; you just reshuffle the pieces of paper according to their priority and tear up the one piece of paper bearing the task you managed to finish yesterday. Very very satisfying. *grin*

  13. And so suitable for a person who only manages to actually do one thing per day!

  14. Well firstly, that's averaging about a $50 work week in transportation alone? The fares here are two dollars one-way for buses and Metro, so exactly half. You also have the option of buying a metro card which for a flat rate you can use it on all transportation lines without limit for one day, one week, or entire month (depending on the increment you purchase). There just seems to be no way to avoid any sort of unnecessary charge whether driving or taking the subway in London. And then these penalties on top of the initial penalty...SLAP HIM!

    Now secondly, this whole "to do list" thing makes quite a bit of sense to me. And I actually thought that this would be a great way for people to do their resolutions for the New Year. Why not have a monthly resolution sort of a to do list for the soul or for the betterment of a person? It would be much more attainable and not nearly as intimidating.

  15. And I've remembered what the 'intrusive and impertinent questioning' was, that made Ken say that to the reporter. It was on tape. He was on his way out of a public (not a private) party - a charity bash of some sort - and the question was, 'Excuse me, could the mayor tell the readers of The Standard whether he enjoyed the porty?'

    Of course. I can see how that would really get your goat...


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