20 Years of the Mayor of London

Written by James McMullon

Today, the 4th May 2020, is the 20th Anniversary of the election of the first Mayor of London.

Ken Livingstone served as Mayor until 2008, unknowingly laying the groundwork for the current Prime Minister: Boris Johnson.

Despite running for office as an independent candidate, Livingstone had been a Labour MP and identified as a democratic socialist.

Being so far left, Livingstone created an electoral swing in the London Mayoral Office. This is where a sitting politician is so polarising, they are likely to be followed by someone with opposing views. For instance, the United States elected one of the most liberal Presidents in their history in Barack Obama which dictated the polarising shift to the far right with current President, Donald Trump.

As such an outspoken left-wing politician, it was almost certain the electorate would swing to the opposite side of the political spectrum to look for his successor.

Enter Boris Johnson.

Before taking over from Ken Livingstone n 2008, Boris Johnson had been MP for Henley. Sonia Purnell wrote in her book, ‘Just Boris,’ that he divided his constituents: becoming popular with those who attended his ‘entertaining’ surgeries and unpopular to those who did not like his, “flippant attitude and lack of knowledge of the local area.”

Boris Johnson had been divisive as a journalist as well, being fired for falsifying a quotation and then becoming editor of The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator.

This divisiveness has become a running theme for the current Prime Minister, but his Mayoralty helped put him in a more positive light.

He achieved this by heading projects that were almost comedic. The rarely used Emirates Air Line cable car crossing the Thames and the ArcelorMittal Orbit helter-skelter slide were some of Johnson’s crowning achievements. The world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide and a £60m cable car that has around four regular users.

Boris made his name as a jester-type figure with the Press Association running clips of his, “buffoonery,” while many across the world were confused as to whether he was a comedian playing the Mayor of London or in fact a serious politician.

Despite some of these fun-yet-useless projects, Boris Johnson would get his glory in 2012 as he oversaw the incredible London 2012 Olympic Games.

This glory helped Boris ‘the buffoon’ win out as he was made Theresa May’s Foreign Secretary in 2015 and eventually succeeded her as Prime Minister of Great Britain in 2019.

In the 20 years since its establishment, the Mayor of London has been a vital part of British politics.

The office has become an exemplar of the ‘electoral swing’. From anti-Thatcherite democratic socialist Ken Livingstone, through ‘Buffoon in Chief’ Boris Johnson and back to left-leaning current Mayor, Sadiq Khan, this office has become a new frontier of politics in this country and a magnet for media spotlight.

The spotlight showed Livingstone’s far-left colours which lead to the swing into Johnson who used the spotlight to gain popularity, however strangely he acquired it. Sadiq Khan is now under constant scrutiny by this spotlight as he tries to improve London by reinforcing its rich culture and defending its diversity.

Written by James McMullon

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