THE SOCIALIST has warned previously that the Tory mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is a right-wing populist with a bias towards more affluent areas of outer London, where the bulk of his support is found.
In his first batch of decisions since defeating the previous Mayor, Labour's Ken Livingstone, Johnson has underlined this point. The most publicised decision has been changing the Rise festival from an explicitly anti-racist event to what is now termed a "community" event.
Munira Mirza, the Mayor's cultural adviser, defended this decision by arguing that, as there is now a consensus within society that racism is unacceptable, concerts such as Rise are now redundant. Given the racist BNP's recent electoral gains this is an unusual idea.
However, Mirza lets the cat out of the bag when attacking the political tone of the festival. "Over the years, Rise was proclaimed by Ken [Livingstone] & Co as a key weapon in the fight against racism and fascism. In reality, it became an annual jamboree for Ken's favourite political activist groups, many with no clear link to anti-racism."
Mirza is referring to the strong trade union and labour movement presence at the festival. The idea that the labour movement, which represents the people who create the wealth in society, should be represented at a state funded event is an abhorrent idea to the Tory party.
In a deliberately provocative act by Johnson, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign has been banned from the festival. This prompted the withdrawal of funds from Unite, Unison and other trade unions supporting the event.
The BNP reacted with delight. BNP London Assembly member Richard Barnbrook had earlier asked Boris Johnson if he could: "confirm if this festival will once again be a political ground with active campaigning against the British National Party as in previous years?" Barnbrook now takes credit for this turn of events, saying "it would seem that my efforts have not gone unnoticed". (Both quotes fromhttp://boriswatch.co.uk/2008/06/17/whitewashing/)
The Socialist Party will not be taking part inside the Rise festival as in previous years. Instead we will continue our anti-BNP work outside the festival to keep the anti-racism flag flying and to protest the actions of the Johnson administration.
In the longer term, the threat a Johnson administration poses to the workers' movement is illustrated by the people he appointed to run day to day affairs in London. Chief among these is his First Deputy Mayor, Tim Parker, dubbed "The Prince of Darkness" by the GMB union after he turned up in a Porsche to sack a group of factory workers and who also halved the 7,000 workforce at the AA.
The London Evening Standard proclaims, "His mission is to use his private sector experience to turn the bloated, bureaucratic City Hall beast into a lean, efficient machine (22 May)." What this means for low-paid public sector workers is clear, job cuts and greater workloads. His ideas need to be fought.