Yesterday morning the plaza in front of New York’s City Hall was crowded with local luminaries, shivering under blankets and bundled in winter clothes. Celebrities and politicians, elders from the city's ethnic communities, clergy and union leaders gathered to celebrate the inauguration of the new mayor, Bill de Blasio. Regular citizens were there too. That in itself was notable. De Blasio’s inauguration was the first open to the general public in recent memory.
I stayed up until about 3 a.m. on Thursday night, listlessly watching the BBC coverage of the local elections in England and Wales (the graphics get more elaborate every year; the presenters more desperate in their pretence that they’re broadcasting to anyone but politicians and insomniac election nuts). But, parochially, there’s only one race I’ve been following: the London mayoral election. Ken Livingstone may be unlikeable in some people’s eyes – ‘Vote Reptilian Stalinist!’ was a rallying cry going round, only half-jokingly, on Twitter recently – but he’s been the most, some would say the only, recognisable figure in London politics for a generation. There wasn’t much going on in my life in 1986 when the Greater London Council was abolished, and since it was what the politically obsessed adults around me were talking about, it seemed worth writing down in my Hello Kitty notebook.