It was hardly a surprise. For months, independent candidate Ken Livingstone has been heavily favored to win London's first popular election for mayor. Still, that didn't stop the tabloids from recoiling in shock and horror when he emerged the victor on May 3. OH NO, THEY'VE ELECTED KENNY! moaned The Sun. One columnist in the Times predicted that a Livingstone administration would be the worst thing to happen to the city since the Great Fire of London in 1666.
That may be a slight exaggeration. Sure, "Red Ken" made plenty of enemies back in the 1980s, when he pursued a populist agenda as leader of the Greater London Council. And as a Labour MP, he alienated many establishment politicians with his opposition to the government's plan to privatize part of the London Underground, his threat to institute "congestion charges" for people driving into the capital and his outspoken sympathy for anarchists and anticapitalist protesters. Indeed, his own party--including Tony Blair--grew so disgusted with him that they put up their own candidate for mayor (who came in an embarrassing third), forcing Livingstone to stand as an independent.
But a Livingstone administration is unlikely to be so fractious. For one thing, the mayor has only limited powers. And with the election over, olive branches have started sprouting everywhere. Livingstone said it was time to draw "a line in the sand" between the rancorous campaign and the new government. Blair said it was important that the new arrangement "works for London and works for Londoners." At least now they know who to call when the trains break down.