Ken Livingstone & the rise of the Tories?


By Cam Walker

Any thoughts out there about the elections in London and loss of the mayor’s seat by Ken Livingstone to the Tories? And are there parallels back here? Or, more ominously, rumblings of something that’s coming?

My first reaction is no, that there is no sign of a backlash emerging against the ‘progressive’ side of politics here, such as it is in the ALP (Rudd continues his great ratings in spite of the warnings on the budget and Nelson has slipped backwards after a slight rally in popularity). The states are generally playing well in the sand pit with the bigger brother/sister of the federal government, and local government remains possibly the most interesting level of politics in Australia, with growing levels of activism.

After all those years of Howard, the gradual shift to the right and resulting swing back our way, we have to be mindful and open to any possibility of this happening and we need to respond strategically should it happen. What I sense in communities i work with is the opposite – a rejection of the nasty politics of the conservatives and a desire for greater vision and action by the ALP (especially here in Victoria where it seems like Brumby is determined to annoy everyone amongst the left).

I hope that it’s just a blip in the politics of the UK rather than a deeper indicator of a shift. If so, it still seems tragic to lose such a spirited activist. Friends of the Earth in the UK had identified Ken as the most environmentally engaged of the candidates and there is no doubt that things will go backwards there with a conservative becoming mayor (the much debated congestion tax is just the start). It does seem like the end of an era in that city anyway.

There’s a good post/reflection on Ken by Steve Platt:

“When Thatcher and the hard-right Tories held sway over the government of Britain, when she spoke of the miners as the ‘enemy within’, or of people feeling ‘swamped’ by blacks and Asians, we could say of London, ‘Not here, not us’, and Livingstone would offer a different voice. When Blair took us to war under false pretences, and when that war brought bombers onto our tubes and buses, Livingstone led us in a different vision of London, what it is and what it represents.”


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2 Responses to “Ken Livingstone & the rise of the Tories?”

  1. Ed Lewis Says:

    Whatever Ken Livingstone’s faults, and as Steve Platt points out he had a few, he leaves most local councillors that I know of in the shade, with the exception of a handful of Greens and independents.

    The local government area where I live is on the shores of Botany Bay, one of the first points of European contact with Australia, and ironically likely to be one of the biggest disaster areas in the event of global warming leading to sea level rise.

    Rockdale Council, a plaything of big developers, with the aid of Liberal and Labor councillors who seem close to indistinguishable, is pressing on with plans for large residential developments on low-lying swampland along the shores of the Cooks River, and has poured money into a glossy consultants’ plan for the shores of Botany Bay, including a freeway through parkland, much of which, if the CSIRO is to be believed, could be under water within the lifetime of today’s younger generation.

  2. Terry Townsend Says:

    There’s a few assessments of the London result from the left at

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