>Personality politics: Beyond our Ken?


When you start getting text messages from the Czech Republic asking you who voted for in the London mayoral election, you know that the Ken vs Boris duel really has caught the political imagination. The answer, readers may be disappointed to know, is actually I voted for no one because (thank God) I no longer live in London and can’t vote. I did, however, take a trip into the London Vote Match website to do their online quiz to find out, who I ought to have voted for. These type of political quizzes tend to place me all over the political spectrum, and this time apparently, I am squarely in the centre-left and should have voted for incumbent Ken Livingstone and, rather more worryingly, not a million miles from the far-left Left List.

This probably reflects the fact the questions were heavily loaded towards transport and ecological issues, rather than the economy more generally and didn’t ask about the mayor’s predilection for Hugo Chavez. Still, it looks like, in my own terms, I was right to text my friend back that view the Conservatives’ big personality candidate Boris Johnson je úplný šašek and that I preferred the existing mayor. I wonder if this is what Václav Havel had in mind when he argued that parties and ideologies should give way to forms of democratic politics based on personalities and personal qualities … The Czechs, it should be said, studiedly avoid electing anyone to executive office , from President to local mayor, by direct election – the nearest thing to personality based politics in the Czech Republic being the ultra-low turnout elections to the Czech Senate. These tend to throw up a mix of worthy independent doctors-turned-politicians and dodgy small town populists

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