Month: May 2008


Entertainment and Policy

May 4, 2008

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Boris Johnson’s win is consistent with my theory that politics is a branch of the entertainment industry. Boris won because people liked him on TV, not because they had any confidence he’d do a good job. In fact, it simply doesn’t matter whether he does a good job or not.

Whatever the budget of the GLA, the actual amount of cash he can shift from one activity to another over the next four years is probably on the order of only a few millions. He can change a few buses, approve a few “don’t knife each other, there’s good chaps” posters, approve or deny one or two large buildings.

On the other hand, he will be on television a lot, and get a lot more attention, because now he’s (drum roll) In Government. And if you treat each of his appearances as a light entertainment programme, value it as equivalent to an equally entertaining non-political celebrity appearance, and multiply up the number of such appearances over the four years, his entertainment value to the voters easily outweighs whatever costs might be imposed on the voters if he is a Bad Mayor in a policy sense.

And in fact the predictable cost of Boris vs Ken is near enough zero. Who knows, Boris might even be better. While the predictable difference in entertainment value is huge – not only is Boris more entertaining than Ken on a level playing field, but more importantly the Ken show has run for eight years and we’ve seen all the best bits.

My point is that (a) Boris has been elected because he’s funny and people are bored of Ken, and (b) This is, with apologies to Bryan Caplan, rational voting.

And of course, it is nothing new: Ken was elected in 2000 for just the same good reason.


BBC drops UKIP from election results


Update – they’ve corrected the omission now. I did notify them of the error directly as well as ranting here.

The London Elects website shows results by first preference votes for 10 candidates. The BBC website shows 9 candidates: Gerald Batten, who came 7th for UKIP with 22,422 votes is missing. The Left List, English Democrat and Independent that polled fewer votes are shown in 7th, 8th and 9th.

It’s rather reminiscent of the US Republican primaries, where Ron Paul was routinely omitted from media publications of results, even while lower-polling rivals like Giuliani were included.

The BNP had to be covered, because they were discussed before the election and people would be looking to see what they got, but the fact that UKIP on zero publicity had outpolled the hard left was a fact that could be safely kept from public view.

London mayor election results
(BBC)

Boris Johnson (Tory): 1,043,761
Ken Livingstone (Lab): 893,877
Brian Paddick (Lib Dem): 236,685
Sian Berry, (Green): 77,374
Richard Barnbrook (BNP): 69,710
Alan Craig, (Christian Choice): 39,249
Lindsey German (Left List): 16,796
Matt O’Connor, (Eng Democrats): 10,695
Winston McKenzie (Ind): 5,389

London mayor election results (London Elects)

Results by candidate for 2008

Candidate name Party 1st choice votes 1st choice % 2nd choice votes 2nd choice %
Boris Johnson Conservative Party 1,043,761 42.48% 0 0.00%
Ken Livingstone The Labour Party 893,877 36.38% 0 0.00%
Brian Paddick Liberal Democrats 236,685 9.63% 0 0.00%
Siân Berry Green Party 77,374 3.15% 0 0.00%
Richard Barnbrook British National Party 69,710 2.84% 0 0.00%
Alan Craig Christian Peoples Alliance and Christian Party 39,249 1.60% 0 0.00%
Gerard Batten UK Independence Party 22,422 0.91% 0 0.00%
Lindsey German Left List 16,796 0.68% 0 0.00%
Matt O’Connor English Democrats 10,695 0.44% 0 0.00%
Winston McKenzie Independent 5,389 0.22% 0 0.00%




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