Once a red Ken, always a red Ken

Ken Livingston became the first Mayor of London in May 2000 by a staggering margin (40% of first preference votes). It was generally hoped that such a maverick character would ensure the running of London would be non-partisan. After all, this was the guy that was kicked out of the Labour party when he decided to run as in independent candidate (after failing to convince Tony and chums that he was the best man for the job), so it was widely felt that he was in a prime position to serve the interests of the whole of London, and not just Whitehall.

5 years on, and I'm really struggling to see what's improved in London. He appointed Bob Kiley as the man to sort out the mess that's the tube. He was paid handsomely for doing this, a £2m four year contract with a nice little £2m Belgravia pad thrown in. But unfortunately, Bob was too busy fighting the PPP (public private partnership), a fight that he spectacularly lost that cost yet more dosh in exorbitant legal fees. But as it also sapped all of his time and energy, he didn't actually get round to managing the tube system at all. So, poor old Bob decided last month that enough was enough and resigned from his position. Well, as it transpires, not quite. His indispensable services are still to be used in the form of a consultancy, at a meager £1m per year. Oh and he gets to keep his Belgravia townhouse, all in all not bad for a 70 year old.

As for the tube. I can only speak from experience and I have to say that the improvement has been quite staggering. Staggeringly invisible. Try getting on the central line on a Sunday and you're greeted by locked stations and an hour wait for a "replacement bus service". Sometimes, just for the hell of it, they also close the Piccadilly line so that if you live in west London you are utterly stuffed. And that's without mentioning the joke that's the District line. The Hornby train set I had when I four years old was considerably more reliable and a damn sight faster than the District line is today. How about a name change from District Line to "Hope-you're-not-in-a-rush-because-this-pathetic-excuse-for-a-train-will-stop-every-
-30-seconds-for-no-apparent-reason" Line? Or perhaps something a bit snapper, like "Shit" line. And when these lines do manage to re-open (late on Monday morning), do we get improved stations, cleaner tubes, more punctual service? Nope. It just the same as ever. The Jubilee line, the youngest of all of them, is hardly ever open at weekends because of engineering works – they forgot to build the platforms long enough!

Of course, them good ol' RMT boys have decided to go out on strike over new year – ruining 1000's of people's celebrations. Complete miserable sods. The one thing Ken could do with the tube is (somehow) get rid of Bob Crow – the militant moron leader of the RMT union, who's only mission in life is to find ever more pathetic excuses for his lazy arsed workers not to go to work. I mean really, have you ever seen what a central line tube "driver" actually does? Because the trains are pretty much fully automated, they don't actually have to DO anything! (with the exception of counting their vast pay packet – they get paid considerably more than nurses, teachers, firemen etc etc…the usual list).

Ken proudly announces an improved bus service across London. Yes, we've got more buses – far too many of the damn things! The amount of traffic they cause clogging up the roads whilst queuing behind yet another bus at a bus stop is legendary. The roads in London simply are not designed to take that many buses. Especially now that conductors have been banished (why?) and with the introduction of those demented bendy buses. Which genius decided that these ridiculous contraptions would work on London roads? I strongly suspect that whoever it was never actually make it to London, and certainly never rode a bike near one of those death machines. A year or so ago, these bendy buses were spontaneously catching fire whilst on the road. This was assumed to be mechanical failure, but it wasn't at all, it was suicide. They might just work with a few modifications. Say, cut the thing in two, shove one half on top of the other and staple the two halves together with a staircase. Voilà. Hang on a minute…

Congestion charge. Another money spinning idea, dreamt up by a team of academic sprouts. The charge zone is going to be extended towards west London, and will displace the traffic towards Hammersmith. Here's a top tip for anyone yet to drive around Hammersmith roundabout: take a picnic. A large one.

So where does this money go? It pays for CCTV on every single street in central London (yet more hideous street furniture to the already congested pavements) and a vast legion of clamping cars, spying vans and patrol cars. Yet more money squandered. What has happened to the streets in the zone? The vacuum has been filled with crappy white vans, knackered taxis and inappropriate buses, all pumping out more toxic diesel fumes than ever before. Why don't we have electric buses and taxis? Is it because they can't be taxed like a normal London motorist?

And finally, Ken has the audacity to publish a newspaper called "The Londoner" at our expense which is nothing but 100% pure and utter propaganda. It really is a publication from the Ministry of Truth (1984). Everything is apparently getting better, trains are faster and cheaper, crime is going down, stations are cleaner, buses are redder, everyone is happy, the sun shines more, cancer and poverty have disappeared and no doubt we're winning the war against Eurasia. Or is that Eastasia.

So, under Ken's rule, my bus fare has more than doubled, the tube fair increases are well above inflation year upon year and I there's an £8 daily tax to drive my car into town.

I would love to know where my money's gone. Ah yes, I remember, it's paying for Lord Bob of Belgravia.

3 Responses to “Once a red Ken, always a red Ken”

  1. Nika Says:

    Not living in London and not having to find my way around either by tube or by car, I am unable to leave a qualified comment. But what about going by bike? I heard of people doing that.
    Perhaps someday you’ll have an entry about cute kittens, that’s a topic I have an opinion on.
    Until then, let me just say that I love you writing style and enjoy your blog very much.

    Keep up the good work, Nika

  2. Rob Says:

    stumbled across this blog and that just had me barking out loud with laughter!

    I'm a northerner, living in the characterless midlands, and usually just dip in or through our nation's capital. But hell, what a great view … extrapolate it out to a picture of Britain; and well crafted!

    Gonna enjoy reading the rest of your blogs.

  3. Luz Says:

    Good luck with the bus service across London