In 1985 Margaret Thatcher decided she’d had enough of the Greater London Council, which at the time employed 35,000 subversive parasites.
Under the stewardship of ‘Red Ken’ Livingstone, it pursued communist policies, hampering Mrs Thatcher’s efforts to get the economy back on track.
The Council had the means of engaging in Luddite sabotage, what with London accounting for some 22 per cent of Britain’s GDP. Moreover, Livingstone was part of a hard-left crusade to take over first the Labour Party and then the government.
Red Ken wasn’t especially reticent about that. In one interview he said: “We have turned [GLC] into the most effective platform the radical left ever had in Britain, and it has started to win massive popular support. That scares them because if we can do this here, think what we could do if we got our hands on the national Government.”
Mrs Thatcher clearly did think about it. That’s why on 1 April, 1986, the Council was abolished.
Fast-forward to the present, and the situation is eerily similar. The country is in the midst of her greatest economic crisis ever, although its magnitude hasn’t quite sunk home yet.
Our ministers haven’t yet announced a coherent plan for reversing the downslide. The early hints at their intentions inspire little confidence and a whole raft of less positive emotions.
The only proven route out of a precipitous economic downturn lies through intensifying commercial activity by every imaginable means. Conversely, anything slowing such activity down may well push the economy into a bottomless pit.
London is as critical to the British economy as ever or, considering the likely post-Brexit, post-Covid global realignment, even more so. And, just like in the 80s, London is again run by a radical leftie, prepared to destroy the city and the country for ideological gain.
London is of course a Labour bailiwick. Blair’s strategy of making Tories unelectable by importing swarms of potential Labour voters from the low-rent parts of the world has paid off to a large extent.
Nationally, it has succeeded in pushing the policies, if not always the votes, the Labour way. In London, with its mere 40 per cent of indigenous population, it has succeeded both ways.
As Boris Johnson has twice shown, a charismatic Tory can still win London’s mayoral elections, provided he isn’t really Tory. But normally a London mayor will always be Labour.
This brings us to Sadiq Khan, who is as ideologically Luddite as a Labour politician has to be nowadays. Except that the radical left ideology is a liquid that has since the ‘80s flown into new vessels.
The biggest of them is coloured green and contains every conceivable shibboleth about ‘saving the planet’. Yet, a few Gretinous fanatics aside, left ideologues don’t really care about the carbon footprint.
They use green puffery the same way as their fathers used anti-nuke propaganda: as a leftie battering ram smashing a breach in ‘the establishment’. The putative central issue was, and still is, always wrapped in the banner of anti-capitalist afflatus.
Acting in that spirit, Sadiq Khan is introducing measures tantamount to stepping on London’s economic throat just as it’s trying to rise from the ground.
Citing the information that since the lockdown London’s pollution levels have dropped by 60 per cent, he’s trying to make the city effectively car-free.
Now, the only way to eliminate anthropogenic pollution altogether is to stop all commercial activity. Some pollution and higher CO2 levels are the tax on widely spread prosperity. Even ploughing the soil releases CO2, which can only be prevented by accepting murderous famines for the sake of a pernicious ideology.
Not much soil is ploughed in London; its economy is mostly service. The City is arguably the country’s most important hub of economic activity, but London isn’t all about finance.
Restaurants, bars, shops, department stores, estate agencies, construction, hotels, entertainment, design, fashion, consultancy, tourism, professional services and so forth – all these make London the most vibrant European capital, a magnet for job-seekers from all over the continent (walking around my area, one hears more French than English).
Most of these oxygen tanks of the London economy depend on vehicular traffic to keep going: private cars, black cabs, car services, delivery vans and so on.
Moreover, HMG has advised that travelling by car is much safer than taking public transport, for obvious reasons. But, under Sadiq, one gets the impression London isn’t part of Her Majesty’s realm.
He has raised the congestion charge from £11.50 to £15, which is painful by itself. But, until now, the charge has only been applied between 07:00 and 18:00, Monday to Friday.
Thus, those who depended on their cars to get to Central London had to bite the bullet, a large-calibre one, considering that on top of that parking in London is more expensive than, say, in Paris or Rome.
The bullet will now grow to the size of an artillery shell, but that’s only the beginning. For many people, who rarely have to drive into the very centre during the day, use their cars in the evenings and on weekends to eat out, go to the theatre, visit museums, shop or see friends.
Now Sadiq has extended the charge until 10pm, seven days a week, which, on top of the extortionate parking costs, will make thousands of people stay away. This will have a devastating knock-on effect on London’s core industries, already crippled by the lockdown.
Moreover, the mayor is making many major roads around the City car-free, which will make even financial services harder to provide. And those stubborn souls who’ll cling to their cars will have to contend with much heavier traffic.
For, labouring under the misapprehension that London is indistinguishable from Amsterdam, one-tenth London’s size, Sadiq has introduced hundreds of miles of extra bicycle lanes. We should all swap our polluting monsters for bikes, as far as he’s concerned.
Traffic in London already crawls along at 7mpg on average, and Sadiq’s new bicycle lanes and road closures are guaranteed to reduce it to walking pace. That means that the thousands of businesses forced to close because of Covid may never reopen.
Britain in general, and London specifically, need to make doing business as easy as possible, both to intensify domestic economic activity and to attract foreign companies. Yet Sadiq’s needs are different: he clearly follows Lenin’s cynical strategy of ‘the worse, the better’.
The next mayoral election is a year away, which is enough time to do irreversible damage. Moreover, for reasons I outlined above, there’s every chance of Sadiq being re-elected, or replaced with his ideological twin.
Margaret Thatcher chopped through that Gordian knot by abolishing the GLC. Boris Johnson could, in my view should, do the same by getting rid of the mayor altogether and replacing him with a cabinet minister for London, with more power relegated to borough councils.
That would raise hue and cry from various quarters but, capitalising on his sterling knowledge of history, Mr Johnson could quote Guy Fawkes on the subject of desperate times and desperate measures.
But he’d have to be the man Maggie Thatcher was, and that would take more (or, in her case, less) than the ability to impregnate girlfriends. It would take qualities I doubt Mr Johnson possesses, but I’d be happy to be proved wrong.