The Mayors of New York and London

Jaffer Kolb, a writer from New York now living in London, considers how the men appointed as political leaders of these two world cities have left their mark, and evaluates Ken Livingstone’s legacy. [Jaffer is, of course, also a 3QD contributor.]

From the Debate London website of The Architecture Foundation:

JafferWith a common history and language, not to mention shared world city-status and innumerable expatriates, New York and London are clearly interconnected and, as a result, oft-compared. So when New Labour announced the creation of a Mayor for London along with the establishment of the Greater London Authority, it came as no surprise that pundits looked to New York’s mayoralty as a model of what might come with London’s new system of government.

Looking back, New York’s mayors are a notorious bunch. Outspoken and dynamic figures like Fiorello LaGuardia, John Lindsay and Ed Koch paved the way for community activist David Dinkins, iron-fisted Rudolph Giuliani and, most recently, savvy businessman Michael Bloomberg. These mayors recall an era of cigar-chewing, cut-throat leadership that is equal parts myth and romance. London’s response? Ken Livingstone, a mayor colourful in his own right and once known as Red Ken for his hyper-left wing tendencies.

Livingstone’s antics, including the infamous instance in which he posted a billboard announcing England’s rising unemployment figures across from Margaret Thatcher’s offices at Westminster on the roof of the Greater London Council building, were argued to have led to the GLC’s dissolution in 1986. He famously lost Labour’s backing during the mayoral elections of 2000, eventually running as an independent against Tony Blair’s highly vocal derision. He won the election, of course, and in so doing has set a precedent for London’s mayors that equals, if not exceeds the force of New York’s dynamic figureheads.

More here.