Conservative Boris Johnson has been elected Mayor of London, and Mike Bloomberg is speeding to his assistance, planning a Friday meeting in London to give Johnson tips in Tory rule of a less-than-Tory polity.
Johnson is clearly aware that he’s most likely to make the visceral impact the Conservative Party’s future fortunes require by reducing crime. No doubt he’d make a bigger PR splash in this regard by meeting with Rudy Giuliani, but Johnson has promised to trim the London budget, and the hundred grand plus private jet Giuliani commands for such charity work is thereby prohibitive.
So Bloomberg will likely succeed with Johnson as he has with New York voters: by restating the old Giuliani nostrums in a whinier tone of voice, and proposing more interference in daily life.
Johnson has already pledged to ban alcohol in the Underground. (“Too many people find themselves forced to sit opposite someone swigging from a can of lager and engaging in behaviour that is intimidating or worse”). Bloomberg may be expected to see and raise Johnson by suggesting he reverse within his precincts the liberalized national alcohol Licensing Act.
The later and longer availability of British drink after the Act has fueled London’s highly profitable nightlife, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown declined after review to reverse it. The extended hours are popular, and even Murdoch news outlets have little to say against them. This may be why Johnson focused on proprietors who abused the privilege rather than coming out against the Act itself.
But if there’s anything our Mayor learned from Giuliani and went one better, it’s the idea that an occasional show of irrelevant, unpopular, and meddlesome force demonstrates the sort of toughness that wins respect and votes. Where Giuliani contented himself with metal pedestrian barriers and enforcement of an ancient dancing ban, Bloomberg banned smoking in bars — something that seemed unimaginable, even absurd, at the time, but which has become accepted, and given the soft-spoken billionaire an electorally useful image of forcefulness.
To cut drinking hours in thirsty London may seem foolhardy, and Johnson might wonder what this has to do with reducing crime. Bloomberg might rejoin that, from the New York point of view, the showing of a firm hand via a smack in the public chops is the first step toward achieving all manner of desirable social change, including reelection. He may go further and suggest that if the Conservative Party does not benefit from Johnson’s record and example, Johnson might take Bloomberg’s example, and abandon it.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 5, 2008