Tag Archives: London

The invisible mayor

For those of you not in London, there is a very heated mayoral election campaign on at the moment, of comparable intensity to the current US Democratic party campaign. For the first time, there are presentable options to the incumbent and it no longer feels like a one horse race, as it was the previous two elections.

So what has the London mayoral election got to do with the WWW?

Quite a lot if you want to talk about user-centred design, accessibility, and public transport (they don’t call it the Information Superhighway for nothing).

Y’see, the incumbent, Ken Livingstone, is someone who elicits passionate opinions like no other candidate has. Pretty much everyone in London knows him and what he looks like and either thinks he is great and has done a great deal for London, or he is a megalomaniac who is eroding our individual rights. Those who know me know what I think. He is a keen supporter of public services across the capital, and has implemented imaginative and controversial schemes, like charging cars £8 GBP per day to drive a car in the capital.

I get the opportunity to see mayor Ken quite a bit as he lives in my neighbourhood and uses the same tube station as me, and I often ask myself how many major world cities has a powerful, well-paid mayor taking the tube/subway to work, sharing the experience of the public transport system with the rest of us? I am certain no other equally public figure shares this activity in London. Particularly interesting in light of the fact that several people over the years have placed bombs on public transport, from the IRA in the 70’s to their more eastern bretheren in the noughties.

So how does he cope? Easy – no one bugs him because he never catches anyone’s eye and focuses on himself. It is amazing how invisible he can make himself. It is an amazing example of someone both accessible and invisible, perfectly open to be approached, but never, at least in my presence, actually approached.

So as a user, he knows the transport system personally, as a mayor he is accessible, yet as an individual he is invisible and remote.

Quite a trick!