Both Boris Johnson and, unlikely as it seems, Ken Livingstone, grew somewhat in stature in what was said after Johnson’s win tonight. The sheer unpleasantness of Gordon Brown, which has infected British politics for longer than he has been Prime Minister, makes magnaminity in victory and graciousness in defeat seem rather precious and rare.
One expects well-turned phrases from Boris Johnson, but there was something fine in what he said to Ken Livingstone. Describing him as “a very considerable public servant” he said ”
You shaped the office of mayor. You gave it national prominence and when London was attacked on 7 July 2005 you spoke for London. And I can tell you that your courage and the sheer exuberant nerve with which you stuck it to your enemies especially in New Labour, you have thereby earned the thanks of millions of Londoners even if you think that they have a funny way of showing it today.
He even added that he hoped to discover a way in which the mayoralty can continue to benefit from your transparent love of London.
Livingstone in turn assumed full responsibility for his defeat. After thanking everyone in the Labour party from Gordon Brown to the newest recruit, he said:
I’m sorry I couldn’t get an extra few points that would take us to victory and the fault for that is solely my own. You can’t be mayor for eight years and then if you don’t at third term say it was somebody else’s fault. I accept that responsibility and I regret that I couldn’t take you to victory.
It doesn’t wash away his many sins, both personal and public, but it showed a refreshingly self-aware attitude to defeat.
So, over to Boris. As a visitor rather than a resident of London, I will be content with affordable tube fares, the occasional sight of a policeman and some litter bins.