We’re all Londonists now
Last week I wrote here on how the Docklands has come to be the leitmotif for the distinct statecraft called for under the London mayoralty. This week’s Economist is of the same view, arguing that:
Since the creation of the capital’s mayoralty in 2000, a distinct ideology has congealed around that office. Some of it is recognisably right-wing: it embraces high finance, even during the banker-bashing furore. Some of it is conventionally left-wing: Londonism calls for state spending on infrastructure and a liberal line on immigration. Essentially, it is a commitment to relentless growth and openness. The city long ago made the transition from mere capital to global hub. Now it has a political philosophy to match.
The hard-headed economic growth model aligned with a more open, tolerant and cultural city offer has been widely remarked on in the past. The Economist notes the soi-disant Red Ken Livingstone and his pragmatic acceptance of Square Mile capitalism, while Boris himself has earned the ‘Red’ sobriquet on occasion by dint of remunicipalising the Croydon tram franchise and the Tube Lines concession, as well as his joining in among the main party consensus in the capital around the amnesty for irregular migrants.
Under Livingstone however there was at least a pre-crash urban movement among Europe’s principal big city mayors (Paris’ Delanoë, Berlin’s Wowereit, Rome’s Veltroni and Amsterdam’s Cohen), captured at its zenith in a 2005 Time Magazine article ‘Town Hall Titans’, which claimed the pragmatic can-do city chiefs were the embodiment of inter-war New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s observation that “There is no Republican, no Democratic, no Socialist way to clean a street or build a sewer, just a right way and a wrong way.” The quintet were all social democrats (Livingstone and Delanoë firmly 68ers) and either gay or very gay-friendly; though the Marxist turned Blairite Veltroni was mocked for his superficial and lightweight buonismo, and only Delanoë and Wowereit now remain.
While Boris isn’t as close as the titans were with, say, Madrid’s conservative mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón or Veltroni’s ‘post-fascist’ successor in Rome Gianni Alemanno, there’s his ‘special relationship’ with mentor Mike Bloomberg of New York City, forged in the immediate aftermath of his election victory. And last week the maverick nationalist Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara (also a gaffe-prone former journalist) surprised many with his call for more immigration to Japan to fill skill shortages, proving that capital city politics always trumps the vagueries of preconceived national interest. Either way, they appear to be speaking a common language.