I have had a very auspicious week. On Thursday, Facebook chose something I’d posted as one of its TOP NEWS STORIES for the last 15 minutes! I think Facebook’s rebranding as a rolling news channel is really going to propel it to a new level, although they may need to rethink their editorial policy if they’re going to lead with the remark I overheard at Willesden Green Tube Station.
Then, as if that weren’t exciting enough, the Mayor of London contacted me PERSONALLY because he is interested in what I think! This is incredibly touching, and feels as if it’s a recognition of a sort. I’m not hugely active in politics, but I do like to spout an opinion or two from time to time, and the idea that Boris wants me- me!- to help him decide on what policies to do is flattering and humbling.
Boris’ mailshot took the form of a questionnaire. I was very careful to answer as honestly as possible, because I could tell he was genuinely interested in my opinion- that’s why the page was headed ‘Tell Boris what you think!’ in a chirpy font. So, when section 1, ‘Local Issues’ asked ‘If there was one thing you could change in your local area, what would that be?’ I replied ‘A different mayor’. This was also the answer to ‘How would you improve transport in London?’ and I was beginning to think that I might have to write it in every single little blue box. But then Boris- perhaps thinking of the recent riots that took place in as many as four small pockets of London- took to asking me about crime. ‘Which area of crime do you think needs more attention?’ There wasn’t a little box for ‘a better understanding of the social and economic causes which lead young people to disengage from society’ so I just ticked ‘other’.
These questions had all been fairly generic so far, so I was pleased to see that Boris was keen to find out what I thought of a specific policy. ‘Since being elected’ he asked ‘Boris Johnson has quadrupled London’s rape crisis provision. Do you support his efforts to increase support for victims of rape?’
This was a real thinker. Like all humans, I am a massive fan of rape, and there’s nothing I hate more than seeing support for its victims increased. It was incredibly brave of Boris to risk asking for feedback on something where opinions were likely to be so polarised, when he could have asked about less controversial topics such as the 55% rise in bus fares in the three years since he came to power.
The next section, ‘Cost of Living’ pointed out that there was a huge increase in Council Tax under Livingstone, before asking what the mayor could do to help with the cost of living. Unaccountably, ‘stop raising the price of public transport year on year by loads more than the rate of inflation’ wasn’t an option, so I went back to the tried and tested and wrote ‘resign’. The next question showed a penetrating understanding of what is most important to Londoners in the current recession, with jobs being lost and services cut. ‘Boris stopped the production of Ken Livingstone’s propaganda sheet ‘The Londoner’ which cost London tax payers £3.1 million per year. Do you agree with this cost saving decision?’
Well, I hate propaganda, and I’m glad to see that Boris is so strongly against it, too. Unfortunately I never saw a copy of Ken Livingstone’s propaganda sheet ‘The Londoner’, so I’m unable to judge whether my c35p a year was being well spent.
For some reason I was feeling quite depressed and angry by this point, and my answer ‘Jump in the Thames’ to the question ‘what do you think the Mayor could do to make planning your finances easier?’ may have been a little churlish. I could hardly concentrate on the questions that followed, about the Olympics, and by the time I was asked how I’d voted before and how I would vote in future I was barely able to summon the strength to write ‘not for you’.
I can’t wait for my letter back from Boris, telling me how he’s going to be putting my suggestions into effect. Meanwhile, I’m going to have a very exciting weekend, courtesy of Ken Livingstone. You won’t believe this, but he’s emailed me- me!- to tell me that he’s announcing an important new policy on Monday, and, get this, if I click on the link he’ll tell me about it FIRST! At first I thought I must have misunderstood, but when I read again it was very clear: ‘If you want to be the first to know click here to sign up to receive a text before anyone else!’
I mean, that is huge. It’s like when Emma Willis tells you who’s nominated who, the night before the main show. I’ll tell you, if I’d clicked on that link I’d be swaggering around the streets of Cricklewood bursting with pride at the knowledge that I’d been told one of Ken’s flagship policies 48 whole hours before he released it to the press. I don’t quite know what I’d have been signing up to by clicking the link, but I bet it will have been awesome.
Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone have always been known for the maturity and dignity with which they carry themselves, and I can’t wait for what is bound to be an elevated and sophisticated mayoral campaign. These first shots are very promising; wouldn’t it have been awful if they’d treated us like we were really, really, really stupid?