Mike Stevens | May 16, 2008

BY GUNNAR HEINRICH

UNLESS you’re new to this whole blogosphere thing or are just waking up from a long coma—in which case I’ll say welcome back (sorry to tell you that Richard Nixon has died and they’ve identified “Deep Throat” as former FBI Deputy Director W. Mark Felt)—you’ve no doubt read about London’s new mayor Boris Johnson everywhere from Autoblog to Jalopnik to namethatcarblog.com.

You just haven’t read about Boris Johnson here.

And that’s okay. Really.

Just hold off on sending the carp mail to Steane—because we’re going to set the wayward ship HMS TMR back on course.

Boris Johnson is London’s new Conservative mayor.

And many of you who are reading this in the comfortable shade of your nearby Coolibah Tree might be tempted to don your Chamberlain caps and haughtily question, “why should we care about a far away people of whom we know (relatively) nothing?”

The answer is you should and here’s why.

London and its mayor occupy a unique position in the world for us car folk because the city on the Thames casts a global influence and stands as the auto aficionado’s Mecca.

It’s where, on a rainy day on any street in the city’s West End, you’ll find a 1952 Bentley Continental Type R that’s parked right behind an '09 Aston Martin DB9 that’s parked right behind a Range Rover HSE that’s parked right behind a beat up, rusted, POS Vauxhall Cavalier that’s parked right behind a Mercedes-Benz S600.

To the point; London is ah-mazing.

Yet despite being home bourse to the world’s greatest rolling stock, London’s actually quite unfriendly to the motorist thanks to a congestion system developed under the left-leaning auspices of the city’s previous Labour mayor, “Red” Ken Livingstone.

The system charges a car owner £8 ($15.50 / AU$16.50) per day for driving into the city by using a system of surveillance cameras ringing the “Congestion Zone.”

This October, City Hall was set to start charging all those Range Rovers, Aston Martins, Bentleys and other heavy CO2-emitters a £25 ($48.80 / AU$51.70) per day FINE charge.

Worryingly, mayors in cities across the globe were taking a good look at London’s scheme and licking their chops at the potential revenue.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was especially keen to see that Gotham followed London’s initiative, but mercifully the state legislature dragged his Green taxing monster up to Albany and shot it dead with a double barreled Winchester.

And as for Mr. Livingstone, the recent elections held in Britain swept Labour from many of its strongest constituencies and brought the Conservatives (Tories) back into power.

So, out went Livingstone and in came Johnson, the relatively unknown quantity.

CELEBRITY FACTOR

Unknown to us. But really quite familiar to the Britons.

Boris is something of a highly publicized character. With a pale complexion and shock of distressed blonde hair; on a bad day, London’s new mayor looks like Gary Busey.

Born to aristocratic parentage in New York, he went through UK public schools and Oxford to appear before the British public as an outspoken public figure. And by outspoken, I mean he’s known for some head spinners:

“My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.”

Or

“I say let people eat what they like. Why shouldn't they push pies through the railings?”

And

"For 10 years we in the Tory Party have become used to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing, and so it is with a happy amazement that we watch as the madness engulfs the Labour Party."

BORIS, THE CAR ENTHUSIAST?

So London’s new mayor is a character. But is he a car enthusiast? Is he one of us?

Maybe.

So far, Boris has said he’ll amend the Congestion Zone system (that means the scheme stays) and promises to scrap the £25 charge on big engined cars (hooray!). He’s also appeared on Top Gear as one of the celebrities who races an econo-box around a track.

No, he didn’t beat Simon Cowell’s lap time.

However, London’s mayor is a committed cyclist (an Amsterdam connection perhaps?), and could be moved to keep or expand the Congestion Zone in the long term just to make room for more cycle traffic.

Worse still, he met recently with Mayor Bloomberg who—being a fan of the original Congestion Zone scheme—probably advised Boris to keep it. And who but Albany doesn’t accept the Mayor of New York’s advice?

The truth is, we won’t know for sure if Boris is one us car folk until the still fresh Johnson Administration starts pushing forward new initiatives.

The world will have to wait to see what Boris does next and how it will affect the London motorist (and our vacillating interest).

But that said, and as sure as I can be, when Boris opens his mouth and the news hits, us car bloggers—that is, TMR's watchful staff—will be ready with comment.

boris-johnson-riding-a-bike-TMR

[Linked: Wikipedia | Transport for London]

Follow Mike Stevens on Google+