If the London Mayoral Candidates Were Football Teams

In Opinion on April 20, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Boris Johnson (Conservative) – Manchester United

Precociously talented enough at what he does do to gain a grudging respect even from detractors. For the same reason, he manages to carry off his arrogance, often worn with the same simmering self-confidence as one of Old Trafford’s most finest sons, Mr Cantona. And with a charm typical of their respective countries of birth; Johnson’s ostensibly bumbling English gent to Cantona’s enigmatic, quintessentially Gallic taste for the arts and philosophy. Of course, the image is largely just clever PR. Just as behind United’s arrogance there is steel that, almost unerringly, leads to victory despite playing shit (usually courtesy of a fortuitous penalty or goal off someone’s arse), behind Johnson’s awkward, bumblingly comic demeanour there is a fierce intelligence and wit, which even opponents have a grudging respect for. (A personal favourite Borisism, if you will, is his response to criticism from Chris Huhne, who had recently been found to have transferred a driving penalty to his wife: “Well, to be fair to Chris, he does know how to get his points across…”. Miaow.)

The same sense of self-confidence influences their respective attitudes to much outside the city they represent, despite paradoxically having a relatively huge profile elsewhere. And income; Boris reportedly earns £250,000 a year for writing for the national paper The Daily Telegraph, and United earn millions from their fanbase in Asia, which is estimated to be near 100 million – a recent tour earned them an estimated £6 million. Of a huge source of United’s support, China, Boris Johnson said: “Virtually every single one of our international sports were invented or codified by the British. Other nations, the French, looked at a dining table and saw an opportunity to have dinner; we looked at it and saw an opportunity to play Wiff-waff. And I say to the Chinese, and to the world, that Ping-pong is coming home!”

Both are also not overly fond of Scousers. Manchester United fans sing (of Park Ji Sung and Liverpool fans): “Park, Park, wherever you may be, you eat dogs in your home country. But it could be worse – you could be Scouse, eating rats in your council house.” Boris has caused furore by suggesting the Hillsborough tragedy was largely due the irresponsible actions of drunken Liverpool fans, and the city wallowed in its “victim status”.

And, love them or loathe him, both now have iconic, if costly, stadiums in rough areas of their cities to their name, which should bring joy to many all over the world, if not to many of the grumbling, oppositional locals.


Ken Livingstone (Labour) – Liverpool FC

Both somewhat troubled at the moment, they relentlessly harp on about their glory years in the 80s – and to a lesser extent more recently – and how they can return to that hallowed place, like tired old romantics. The emotional yearning – vomit-inducing to many – can be seen in Livingstone’s (crocodile?) tears at the broadcast of his election manifesto video. For both, there are frequent calls of self-righteousness and sanctimony; most recently for Ken- whether his tears were really spontaneous and sincere given the news he had watched the film the night before.

There are also recent cries of shady and unethical organisational malpractice. Liverpool in the various financial proceedings between unpopular Americans George Gillett and Tom Hicks buying the club in 2007 and Fenway Sport Group’s 2010 takeover. And Ken Livingstone in the press’ hounding of him for including ‘actors reading from scripts’ in his election broadcast. Even if reports are often exaggerated by short-sighted press and punters – Livingstone’s ‘actors’ had been selected, paid (but only expenses) and provided with a script, but all were genuine Labour supporters. Ken has also been in hot water for the hypocrisy of denouncing the tax avoidance and evasion of “rich bastards”, yet reportedly funnelling £238,646 into a private firm to avoid the higher tax, thus saving up to £54,000 for being subject only to the 14.5% tax rate – lower than a City Hall cleaner.

And, just like Liverpool FC in their – ultimately unwise –  support of Luis Suarez amid allegations of racism, Ken has been dogged with accusations of racially divisive practice; notably, his combination of passionate championing of Islam yet snide comments about Jews. Though condemning of the authoritarian regime in Iran, he has accepted payments from the Iranian state, and also invited Yusuf-Qaradwi, Muslim hate-preacher banned from the USA who has supported suicide bombings and executions for homosexuals, to speak at City Hall.

Yet despite all the controversy both still retain a deep pride in their noble, socialist roots, or worthy wankerishness to the more cynical. Liverpool fans recently sent Alan Davies death threats for him having the temerity to suggest – sensitively – the club’s insistence on not playing on the Hillsborough anniversary was just a tad overbearing and demanding. And Ken has said this election is a “simple choice between good and evil […not] so clear since the great struggle between Churchill and Hitler”, and joked, “those who don’t vote for [him] will be weighed in the balance come Judgement Day. The Archangel Gabriel will say, ‘You didn’t vote for Ken Livingstone in 2012. Oh dear, burn for ever’.”

Add in the respective staunch devotion to red, and the resemblance is almost uncanny.


Brian Paddick (Lib Dem) – Arsenal

Makes positive moves, is liked by many, and has led the way in promoting a more progressive culture in his line of work (being a stereotypical Lib Dem and the UK’s first openly gay police officer), but seems not to quite have the cutting edge or political clout to mount a serious challenge, with a mere 8% of the estimated votes backing this up.


Siobhan Benita (Independent) – Swansea

A relative newcomer to the big league(s), Benita has a fresh, attractive approach to the game, but with a reticence and inability to spend big – and arguably play dirty, too – is unlikely to really challenge the big boys.


Carlos Cortiglia (BNP) – Millwall

Makes bold claims to be standing up for tradition and good, honest, hardworking Brits, but to most just hides a bunch of aggressive racists, under whatever new guise (this chap was born in Uruguay and is also of Spanish and Italian descent).

Joel Durston

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