Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why such competition?

Compared to the mayor of New York, the mayor of London is remarkably powerless. So, the question is why do the major parties make such a big deal of competition for the job? Or is it just the British media (all headquartered in London) that pays attention and publishes or broadcasts the contests?

Thanks to Rebecca Small who teaches at Oakton High School in Virginia for pointing out the Economist article.

Back into the fray
AT TIMES, it can seem as though London is stuck in 2008. The property market is still buoyant and, at the top end, still hotly contested by the global rich. Costly projects, such as the city-traversing Crossrail and the Olympic games, have not fallen victim to austerity. And, in May, voters will be asked to choose between the same two mayoral candidates who were on the ballot four years ago: Boris Johnson, the Conservative incumbent, and Ken Livingstone, his Labour predecessor.

Mr Johnson is the current favourite. An opinion poll last November gave him a lead of 48% to 40%…

There is a pervasive assumption, even in the Labour Party, that the mayoral race is a foregone conclusion. It is not. London leans left—as big, diverse cities tend to. Mr Livingstone, knowing that voters often punish governments between general elections, aims to paint his rival as just another Tory. And although the polls suggest that Londoners prefer Mr Johnson on policing, the economy and the Olympics, he trails on the vital issue of transport…

The mayoral election has implications for national politics. Victory for Mr Johnson would be another blow to Ed Miliband, whose performance as Labour Party leader is attracting criticism. Defeat for the incumbent would only be a passing nuisance for David Cameron, the Tory prime minister, but the effect on the future of his party could be profound. Mr Cameron predicts privately that he will be succeeded by either the mayor or George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer…

The challenges facing the next mayor are immense. There are new threats to the City from domestic and European regulation, as well as severe housing shortages and social problems of the kind exposed by the riots of last summer. But the prize is even greater: the chance to run Europe’s biggest city and preside over a high-profile sporting event in the summer…

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