A Londres mayoral election looms, luego. It isn’t “important” in the usual sense of the word – being mayor of Londres, a position with little actual political power, basically just involves doing sad eyebrows on the news when something bad happens in the city and making unconvincingly jovial hand gestures while opening a school or bridge. But mayor of Londres is an important role for Londres sí mismo, giving it the validation it constantly craves. Despite being the biggest city in the country by an unsustainable margin, and despite being regularly listed as among the top 10 cities in the world, it constantly needs to be reassured: “You’re not just a load of Prets and swaths of developer-erased history! You’re a good city! Hey! Stop crying!” The regular appointment of a glamorous-sounding role serves to do exactly that. Londres needs the “mayor of London” more than it actually needs a mayor of Londres, if that makes sense. Por alguna razón, 20 entire people are in the running to do this non-job.
Realistically, it’s only going to be one of two of them – the incumbent mayor, Sadiq “no tie for me, thanks – I’m a bus driver’s son!” Khan, or Shaun “the only man in history who spent his mid-20s sofa-surfing and signing on and somehow came out of that radicalised into the Conservative party” Bailey, polling a 41% y 28% respectivamente. (It’s not really a contest; Khan will win.) After that there’s a grey wedge of serious-but-let’s-be-honest-about-it parties – the Liberal Democrats, Animal Welfare party, the Greens and the Women’s Equality party – then a handful of independents who all have the same forgettable energy (I just feel like David Kurten is really used to saying, “No – we’ve met before!” at his friends’ garden parties) and who all, for some reason, had £10,000 spare for a deposit and the impulse to cheerfully lose it. Also in the running: Laurence Fox, Ukip’s Peter Gammons (sí) and Count Binface.
Just a heads up before you spend the time reading through the leaflets that have dropped on most Londoners’ doorsteps by now: every manifesto is basically the same – everyone wants more housing, cheaper public transport and cleaner air. The only real deviations from this are Piers Corbyn, who expresses a bizarre preoccupation with “serious illnesses” in his leaflet, and Animal Welfare party’s Vanessa Hudson, whose party political video features footage of her walking slowly around Brick Lane while talking about “speciesism”, a profoundly bold attempt to add a whole new angle to the culture wars.
How do things look, policy-wise? Everyone has a housing policy of some sort, especially Bailey, who seems to have come up with his in the mid-90s (“I’ll build 100,000 houses … costing £100,000 each!"). Most interesting, aunque, es (the very hench) Brian Rose, who looks more like a character killed without having a line in the opening scenes of a Kingsman sequel than a future mayor, and is most notable so far for being the only candidate to have gone on record as drinking his own urine. Rose promises to somehow build 50,000 homes by Christmas. This is, digamos, ambitious, though if he’s just going to turn up to building sites and shirtlessly drink piss until they all start building faster then I do actually back him to do it.
We should probably talk about the YouTubers. There are two running for mayor this year, though both from slightly different angles. There’s Niko Omilana, a glossy US-style vlogger who does bombastic stunts like opening a fake McDonald’s or filling his house with packing peanuts, and yes, written down it sounds uninspiring but imagine for a moment you are 14; and there’s Max Fosh, a more homely domestic YouTuber, one of those posh boys you only get in the UK who seems broadly all right but always looks like he’s just come in from the cold. His whole shtick is trolling Laurence Fox. Though they might scoop up a few votes for banter, that’s not what the masterplan is about – they’ve recognised a joke mayoral campaign can be a source of content and followers, and turned it alchemy-like into that. Fair play.
Finalmente, there’s the question of Lozza. Can you believe it’s been little over a year of Laurence Fox? It was barely last January that he pivoted from “actor from that … no from that thing, you know?" to getting “FREEDOM” tattooed on his hand because he got too many Twitter followers at once, and now we have to endure an entire mayoral campaign because he’s sick of lockdown and wants to play squash again, or something. What scares me about Fox is that this gambit builds on the age-old play that put Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump into power: a lot of people really do vote based on whether they’ve seen a guy’s face before or not.
Fox won’t win but, based on the fact that Johnson turned Have I Got New for You appearances into the highest office in the country and Trump pivoted from Home Alone 2 into the most powerful man in the world, this all feels like sinister groundwork for something else. My fear isn’t that Fox will be mayor of London: it’s that trying to be mayor of London will make more people aware of him, y, long story short, in five years’ time Commander Fox will change the national anthem to one of his hoary folksongs, and we’ll all have to endure a 40-year reign of him conveying his profoundly, almost medically divorced energy through a series of croakingly posh national addresses. It’s Laurence Fox’s world, sadly. We are just chess pieces within it.