Five reasons it might not be so bad to have Boris as Mayor after all

UPDATE April 2022. I’m leaving this up, although it’s obviously a bit embarrassing (and wrong – Johnson ultimately served two terms as Mayor).

1. The Mayor doesn’t have much to do anyway. He may have an £11B budget but it’s really only half a job. New Labour deliberately hobbled the Mayor’s office from the beginning by retaining control of everything important at the centre and providing no direct tax raising powers. The remarkable thing about Ken’s tenure has been how much impact he’s been able to have with control of public transport and bugger-all else.

2. He’s funny. He is funny isn’t he?

3. He’ll be a one-term Mayor. Nothing he’s proposed is achievable within budget. He’s backing away from the Routemaster idea (which has been authoritatively rubbished). Central Office cagily supported Boris but not his policies. With all the big reforms already firmly entrenched Boris will struggle to make an impact. As budgets rocket and policies evaporate disillusionment will set in.

4. Cameron will cut him loose. He may be better behaved now but you can’t innoculate a boob like Boris against gaffes. Can it be long before he alienates bus drivers or pensioners or people who live in Penge?

5. He’ll get bored. Boris evidently has the attention span of a nine year-old boy. As his concentration lapses he’ll drift off. Pretty soon he’ll forget where he works and after a year or two Londoners will be able to pick someone else.

Building Magazine on why construction needs migrant workers

Gordon Brown’s announcement of a larger quota for desperately needed overseas construction workers is cue for a good piece from Building magazine about migrant workers on UK sites. The article focuses on the experience of workers on the huge Paternoster Square development, next door to St Paul’s Cathedral in The City – from Italy, Hungary, Zimbabwe and Germany. This is the kind of access only a prestige trade title like Building could get but it’s crying out for a longer treatment – five workers from four nations on one well-run site is hardly an in-depth survey.

The magazine’s coverline sums up the UK building trade’s attitude to migrant workers: “The indispensibles: why construction needs migrant workers”.

Churchillian in more ways than one

Ed Richards, former advisor to Tony Blair
Ed Richards, principle advisor on Telecoms and new media to the Prime Minister until he took a job at Ofcom last week, reveals Tony Blair’s decisiveness on Broadband Britain:

“First, I want you to tell me what this broadband thing is. Second, I want you to tell me why it’s in crisis, and third, I want you to sort it out…”

Take-up for broadband is pretty impressive now, even from a very low base. According to NOP, a quarter of UK Internet households will be on broadband by the end of 2003. Blair’s Churchillian approach might actually be working.

edemocracy spiked!

Spiked is run by the survivors of Living Marxism magazine, the high profile and often entertaining voice of the British Revolutionary Communist Party during the nineties. The magazine was finally steam-rollered by a law suit in 2000 but these guys were always more switched on than the rest of the factional hard left so it’s no surprise to see them back with a stylish, readable web site and now a series of debates on the entirely relevant theme of IT after the crash.

Spiked’s mission is the debunking of trendy ideas – in politics, science, business, anywhere really. But this is really just classical entryism – a subtle and accessible way of doing the important work of blowing away our ‘false consciousness’ and reasserting the eternal oppositions of the class struggle – labour vs capital, state vs individual etc. (I can’t find a trace of the political party itself. Was it wound up? Surely it can’t be this lot?).

I guess the logic of the project is that debunking is infectious: for every orthodoxy persuasively overturned there is a potential convert to the larger cause. There really is nothing so satisfying as a cogently argued rubbishing of the status quo – whether it be climate change (it’s not happening), edemocracy (it’s just more state coercion) or testicular cancer (it’s no big deal).

As a strategy it’s obviously working. If tonight’s meeting was anything to go by, they’re frequented by plenty of non RCP people, many of whom may have no idea what Spiked stands for and little or no sympathy with their goals (like me). More subtle still, with no actual political party to push, Spiked can rightly claim to be entirely independent and new recruits are recruits to a way of thinking rather than to a political creed. Very postmodern.

In this debate, Charlie Leadbeater, advisor to number 10 and prominent optimist, argued that informal, self-organising digital networks (like this blogging thing) might present a way of holding governments and trans-national institutions to account. Influential forecaster James Woodhuysen, for Spiked, disagreed – entertaingly, as always. edemocracy is phoney – worse, it’s a barely disguised attempt to reinforce state control, provide new channels for coercion and permit governments to steamroller dissent. All of this communication is just a smokescreen, a clever distraction from the real business (in ‘the real world’) of production – substituting participation for real power. This programmatic emphasis of production over communication (content over form, real over imaginary) is sooo last century and, obviously, neglects the actual, objective reality of networked communications, though. Communication in the 21st Century is production.