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I’m backing Boris for London mayor

Where Ken Livingstone cynically postured against MMR, risking the health of London’s children, Boris Johnson at least defended the vaccine.

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick

Topics Politics UK

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When Ken Livingstone says that the contest for mayor of London is ‘not Celebrity Big Brother’, this should be interpreted as confirming that, in fact, this election has more in common with celebrity culture than it does with any competition between serious political alternatives.

Livingstone, the current mayor, is the cheeky chappie who, more than any other Labour politician, personifies the evacuation of politics from British politics and of socialism from the British left. First as leader of the Greater London Council in the 1980s and then as mayor since 2000, he has presided over the degradation of left-wing politics and its transformation into posturing publicity stunts and pork-barrel multiculturalism.

Another political celebrity who has much in common with Livingstone is Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California. The contrast in their physiques provides an apt symbol of the special relationship. One issue illustrates the common lack of character of these two politicians of our times: their statements on vaccination.

In July 2002, Livingstone declared that his (still unborn) child would not be receiving the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, but would be having these vaccines separately at one of the sleazy private clinics offering this service in London. In August 2004, Schwarzenegger declared that flu vaccines containing the mercury-based preservative thimerosal would be banned from the state of California.

Both MMR and mercury have been linked, by junk scientists, lazy journalists and ambulance-chasing lawyers, with autism. At the height of a wave of public fears, the first instinct of these PR politicians was to jump on the bandwagon.

Partly as a result of falling uptake of MMR, more than 400 children contracted measles in London in 2007. In Hackney, where I work as a general practitioner (GP), we had more than 300 cases and three children were admitted to intensive care units. In Barnet, where there was another outbreak, one child required a period of artificial ventilation. So far this year, there has been another outbreak in Lewisham – and cases continue in Hackney. I have seen three children with measles in my surgery in the past fortnight. Mercifully, nobody has yet died in these outbreaks.

For Livingstone, an interview about MMR was simply an opportunity to distract attention from another round of adverse publicity in the London press. Like Tony Blair’s equivocation over whether his son Leo had received MMR, Livingstone’s ill-informed and cynical gesture helped to undermine public confidence in immunisations, to the detriment of the health of children in London (1). Indeed, for all their personal animosities, Blair is another celebrity politician with whom Livingstone has much in common.

It is true that Boris Johnson, Livingstone’s main opponent in the mayoral election, is a Tory. But so what? In the Celebrity Big Brother of the mayoral elections, none of the old labels of right and left means anything anymore. At the height of the MMR controversy, Johnson rejected the scare and endorsed the childhood immunisation programme. He even publicly criticised the Daily Mail over its irresponsible scare-mongering on the issue. This at least shows a glimmer of the sort of integrity and character that is conspicuously lacking in the Labour candidate.

Are the rival positions of the mayoral candidates on MMR a sufficient justification for voting? In the absence of any other differences of policy on anything that matters, this is as good a reason as any for voting for Boris. The fact that he is a fellow cyclist pledged to get rid of the bendy buses is just a bonus.

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick is author of MMR and Autism: What Parents Need to Know (buy this book from Amazon(UK)) and The Tyranny of Health: Doctors and the Regulation of Lifestyle (buy this book from Amazon(UK)).

Previously on spiked

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick showed how measles outbreaks in London were the results of a rash panic, revealed how the anti-MMR gravy train had been derailed, took a look at autism-lit and called for a halt to the witch-hunting of Dr Andrew Wakefield. Mick Hume suggested we pay attention to the London mayoral election as an example of the problem of ‘No-party politics’. Emily Hill argued we should vote for anyone but Ken. Or read more at spiked issue MMR and autism.

(1) London mayor warned over MMR defiance, BBC News, 3 July 2002

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics UK

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