New York City set to elect a local mayor for local people

September 6, 2013

Having paid scant attention – to my shame – to the race to become next mayor of the world’s best city, I enjoyed reading this concise and interesting state-of-the-race-on-eve-of-the-vote piece by Gary Silverman in the FT.

New York City (where else) is set to exit a period during which, by virtue of having successive mayors focused more on the inter/national than the local, the city’s politics have been out of kilter with the norm. Mayor Giuliani showed remarkable leadership during 9/11 and as a result became an established figure on the national stage, and his favoured successer Michael Bloomberg was naturally a ‘big picture mayor’:

Mr Bloomberg’s New York has felt less like his hometown than his laboratory.  Whether he was weaning  the overweight off sugary drinks or looking to stop  the rise of the seas, he played to a bigger audience than the mere 8m souls  traversing the sidewalks of the city.

This is, says Silverman, all set to cease:

The big story of the mayoral campaign (excluding the Anthony  Weiner burlesque) has been the unexpected rise of Bill de Blasio, an underdog Democrat who has gone out of his  way to paint himself as a crusader for the forgotten New York – the  anti-Bloomberg, if you will.

What’s more surprising than the rise of a locally-focused candidate like Mr de Blasio is the fact that it’s taken so long:

The remarkable thing is that we have had wealthy white mayors for so long in a  city that is so black and brown and poor. Descendants of European immigrants are  a minority here. African-Americans and Hispanics make up more than half the  population. Throw in Asians, and you are north of 60 per cent.

Putting aside the differences of the political systems and national geographies (which cause London to dominate the UK more than NYC does the US) and the temporary boost of the Olympics, would we say Boris Johnson is ‘naturally’ inclined to be a Giuliani/Bloomberg or a de Blasio?

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Governor Boris

August 6, 2012

I enjoyed this comment piece by the FT’s new political columnist Janan Ganesh, which systematically deflates the Boris for PM balloon. The mayor doesn’t stand a chance, writes Ganesh, because British voters tend to subject politicians to a whole other level of scrutiny when it’s national office at stake:

For all their crabby indifference to politics, Britons ask searching questions of anyone who aspires to govern their country, which is why opposition parties tend to shed support in the run-up to a general election. They will ask those questions of Mr Johnson if he ever made a bid for the highest office. Charm will not be a good enough answer. Even Mr Cameron, a purring Bentley of a career politician, has struggled to exercise true command. Mr Johnson has sublime intellect and a solid record as mayor but his previous attempt at a Westminster career peaked with the job of shadow higher education minister.

Ganesh also suggests a deeper reason for Boris being unlikely to make the transition from City Hall to Westminster proper: ‘Highly devolved nations such as the US are used to the idea that a politician can master a metropolis, or even a state, without being quite right to run a country.’

The converse is true as well, of course: the US provides a key intermediate level, the gubernatorial, with the post of governor having the clout, responsibility and kind of national standing to act as more of a genuine training ground for national politics (as an indication, just witness the influence of Chris Christie and Jeb Bush on the Republican primaries).


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