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Sir Simon joins Boris in the new imperial family at City Hall

PUBLISHED: 11:48 08 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:02 07 September 2010

Following the eclipse of Ken Livingstone, we can now look forward to at least four years of Boris, an outcome that had looked inevitable long before the polling stations opened last Thursday. For some that s a scary prospect, but BoJo has made a convincin

Following the eclipse of Ken Livingstone, we can now look forward to at least four years of Boris, an outcome that had looked inevitable long before the polling stations opened last Thursday. For some that's a scary prospect, but BoJo has made a convincing start by doing what every clever leader does in a new situation, surrounding himself with people who really know what they are about.

These include Westminster's leader Sir Simon Milton who has resigned to become part of Boris's imperial family at City Hall. Westminster Council's relationship with Ken Livingstone was extremely strained on important issues like planning and the extension of the congestion charge.

Sir Simon's views on these matters are well documented and it would be extraordinary if his presence in BoJo's inner sanctum did not produce a change of policy, sooner rather than later.

But what a dreadful mess Labour has made of things. Last week's countrywide elections and the demise of Ken Livingstone are further indications of a deep malaise that has seen the party lose touch with voters to an alarming and perhaps permanently-damaging degree.

Short-sighted national policies, aimed at grabbing headlines rather than setting firm foundations; the bloody misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan; squeamishness in the face of issues that occupy the nation's minds; the erosion of civil liberties; the obsessive tinkering with national treasures like our health and education systems; the enforced closure of the post offices - the list of contributory factors is endless.

If New Labour was a company, it would be bankrupt, and its executives hung out to dry by shareholders demanding root and branch reforms - or more possibly a return to the basics around which their loyal support had been garnered.

Part of the problem is that Labour no longer attracts quality people of unshakeable vision, intellect and ability, in the way it once did. Perhaps the writing was already on the wall when Michael Foot was replaced by Neil Kinnock.

That episode aside, the transition from an ideology-based party with core values to one that developed programmes on the back of spin and focus groups, became unmistakable when John Smith's untimely death led to the election of a talented but rootless politician who, one feels, could just as easily have led the Tories or the Lib Dems with equal aplomb.

That lack of a true political identity is why Labour has lost touch with its constituency, and why Boris Johnson, and not Ken Livingstone, is mayor of London today.


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