election fever

London has seemingly been in the grip of ‘election fever’ for the entirety of 2016. That’s not ‘fever’ in the context of a good thing I.e. sales fever, football fever, festival fever. No. More like a long running, irritating cold that won’t go away kind of fever. The kind of fever that various products and remedies promise to solve but invariably don’t. Sound familiar. For lozenge swap in opportunistic politicians.

First the election of the London Mayor. Now the UK’s EU in/out Referendum.  It was impossible to cycle through London and not be bombarded by Sadiq Kahn’s beaming face or Goldsmith’s reluctant ‘I really don’t want to be here face’ on buses or billboards. Then we voted our 3rd London Mayor even if I guess most Londoner’s have no clear idea what the purpose of London Mayor is.

You can forgive Sadiq Khan for his new job’s ambiguity as he began his term resplendent in a huge grin, giddy with joy at his clear win, like a lottery winner. Unlike his predecessors, Ken and Boris, who whilst contrasting in policy (I think) were united in a love of the limelight and their perma-smug demeanour that revealed how thoroughly convinced they were in themselves that they deserved the role because of who they were. They were already self-promoted political celebrities.

Khan Seemed to come from nowhere. Maybe he was just a politician rather than a celebrity who dipped into politics when their media commitments allowed.  I hope Sadiq’s priorities are more focused on delivering the housing and schools that London needs.  Not naming modes of transport after himself.  I like the story his dad was a bus driver; my dad was a postman.

How many days has he been Mayor now? Other than a public spat with Donald Trump nothing cataclysmic has happened.  Whereas tomorrow. If the UK has voted to leave the EU, things will happen. The financial markets will go into meltdown; billions will be wiped off pensions (not the gold plated final salary pensions of the little middle Englanders that will have voted Leave) but the companies who have to fund those pensions will find it harder to meet their liabilities. Going cycling on the continent will be harder too. Waking up to Brexit will be a bitter pill to follow and the fever will deteriorate into something far worse and potentially terminal.

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a dangerous world

It’s easy to forget where you are. I’m cycling along the Embankment, past some of London’s – no, some of the world’s most iconic landmarks. The London Eye to my right. Check. Whitehall on my left. Check. Don’t forget the River Thames. The Houses of Parliament are up ahead, near submerged under crowds of tourists, I barely notice the grand, ornate palace. On semi-auto pilot I charge pass Westminster Cathedral on my way home, trying not to snag a selfie taking tourist. I have to remind myself: I’m fortunate, privileged to be riding these roads.

OK. Not as fortunate or privileged as the Lords and Ladies and Right Honourables inside the Houses of Parliament, as I head home they are probably heading to their heavily subsidised bar. David Cameron probably wouldn’t mind heading home too (and not coming back). He’s said this is his final term but he increasingly looks like someone who wouldn’t mind calling time early. If he’s not being accused of doing something beastly with a pigs head he’s being shamed as tax dodging hypocrite, his dead father’s name dragged through the mud to add to his mire. He gives the impression of a man waiting to cash in his pension and put his feet up (on a private jet whilst touring the lucrative US lecture circuit like his illustrious predecessor: A. Blair).

Dave seemed to lose his mojo when five years after telling us that we should all hug a hoodie it all kicked off during the UK riots in 2011. What he saw during the riots appeared to truly confound him. He couldn’t reconcile the images of the anarchy on the streets with his closeted perception of an honest, decent, patriotic, Victorian-esque society. His sheltered idealism was shattered along with shop windows, his naïve idealism burnt to ashes on the streets.

His privileged forbears would have told him that of course the peasants are revolting. From then on, disillusioned he just seemed to give up, merely going through the motions ever since. Invisible even as his would be successors, George and Boris jostle for the limelight. Even when gifted with Miliband and then Corbyn he’s still not performed. Perhaps he needed a strong rival to shake out his competitive side, a strong rival to motivate him. He’s no Ali but he never faced a Frazier or a Foreman either.

He looks tired. Clock watching. Except sometimes, something stirs, the mask slips, revealing a Tom Brown’s School Day’s Flashman-esque bully, snide, tetchy. Ironically this attitude might have served him better from day one, given him a bit of edge, roughened up his posh blandness, ruffled a few feathers and earned him some respect from the average man on the street who thinks he’s a cartoon cut out bland toff.

Instead, we’ve got a lame duck Prime Minister, like a second term US President. Actually America has one of those too. Significant World Leaders, limply shuffling to the stage exit. It’s dangerous times for the world and dangerous for me as inch across the roundabout at Lambeth Bridge.