Monday, April 07, 2008

Scaring children, and other vote-winning ideas

I can't help thinking that the continuing success in the polls enjoyed by Boris Johnson is just too good to be true, and that we'll wake up on May 2nd to be confronted with the grinning figure of Livingstone, nasally enjoying his hold over London for at least another four years. One of the reasons that this depresses me so much is caught here in an interview with the Independent.
The mayor, "a sixty-year-old smiling public man" (as WB Yeats described himself in his poem "Among School Children") in a charcoal grey suit and undone tie, is relaxed. "You ever been to Spain?" he asks them. "How was it? Hot?" The children nod eagerly. "Well, by the time your children leave school," he tells them, "London will be as hot as that. So we'll have to plant new trees to make shade, or people will die."
Five minutes later, he's back on sewage recycling and how "the water you drink has been drunk by lots of other people right back to the dinosaurs". The children look bemused, as well they might when confronted by this kindly man who talks with such animation about people dying, weeing and waste. On the wall, one of the inspirational classroom signs bears the legend: Be a Litter Hitter. To my presbyopic eyes, it seems to read: "Be a Little Hitler."
There's something infinitely unappealing about that image: Ken Livingstone applying ludicrously exaggerated misrepresentations of climate science in order to frighten school children. And it's done in the same relentlessly demotic, mock-matey tone: it makes my flesh crawl. As john Walh says: Apart from the flood of statistics, it's that matey, smiley dirigiste strain in Livingstone's thinking that drives you nuts.

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