With the coronavirus running rampant through the capital, the upcoming London mayoral elections have barely registered in the news.
Independent candidate Brian Rose has rapidly risen to second place in the betting markets – ahead of Conservative non-entity Shaun Bailey. This reactionary charlatan has benefitted from the continuing collapse of trust in the establishment. This further demonstrates the need for a radical socialist solution to the crisis of the system.
Snake oil salesman
In a dramatic campaign video, epic music swells as a fly-by shot of London cuts to an American-born ex-banker in a pin-striped three-piece suit – complete with scarlet tie and pocket square. He talks about becoming a UK national, and praises his adopted city’s culture, diversity, and history. He then slams its political leaders for presiding over shambolic finances, a ruined economy, and deteriorating public services such as transport and education.
I am announcing my plans to become your next Mayor of London.— London Real (@LondonRealTV) October 13, 2020
I want to lead this incredible city in a new direction.
I promise to work tirelessly to make London a world-class city once again.
I am confident that together, we will accomplish our mission.
Brian Rose pic.twitter.com/etIo1OGwBi
Brian Rose demagogically exploits the genuine grievances of Londoners caught in the teeth of a major economic and health crisis. His campaign promises everything under the sun: health, work, science, education, green policies, digital development, freedom of speech, family, transport, housing, and community. But rest assured, this snake oil salesman is no friend of working people.
Rose initially made his career in the finance sector, before founding the right-wing libertarian London Real YouTube channel – peddling conspiracy theories under the guise of promoting ‘free speech’. He then used a TED talk about the success of this venture as a platform to flog a dubious series of online ‘Business Accelerator’ programmes; that is, praying on gullible wannabe millionaires to enrich himself.
Following a successful crowdfunder in April, Rose launched the ‘Digital Freedom Platform’, where he hosts videos too outlandish for YouTube. These include an interview with notorious conspiracy theorist David Icke, who claims that the symptoms of COVID-19 are caused by the 5G mobile network.
Another video sees Brian Rose conversing with Lord Michael Farmer – an evangelical Conservative life peer, who raves about the nefarious influence of ‘Cultural Marxism’ and its attacks on the Christian faith.
Breeding ground for charlatans
The reactionary and anti-scientific ideas Rose trades in are certainly ridiculous. But the fact that the betting markets favour him over the governing party’s official candidate shows that he is tapping into a certain mood.
This should not be overstated. Polls suggest that incumbent Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan is comfortably on course to win. And looking at the comments on London Real’s videos, it is clear that Rose appeals mostly to backward and reactionary layers of society – the enraged lower-middle-classes and lumpenised elements.
But as we have noted before, the virulent spread of conspiracy theories around COVID-19, and the general air of distrust, are symptomatic of the ruling class’s total failure to deal with this pandemic. This creates a breeding ground for opportunists like Rose.
The NHS is creaking as the virus runs out of control. Livelihoods and lives are being lost as the economy crumbles. The government has battled to keep schools open, despite the fact that the virus thrives in classrooms.
A year of lockdowns and official social distancing measures seem to have been worse than useless. Despite Christmas being effectively cancelled in London and elsewhere, there is seemingly no end in sight to this nightmare.
In this context, we can expect hucksters like Rose to exploit the rising mood of revulsion, distrust and resentment from the right. Nigel Farage, former UKIP and Brexit Party leader, is also looking to benefit, announcing the latter’s rebranding as the anti-lockdown ‘Reform UK’ party.
Role of the Labour right wing
The Labour leadership bears its share of responsibility for this situation, acting entirely as part of the despised establishment. Party leader Keir Starmer has resisted teaching unions with greater vigour than he has the government.
Sadiq Khan, meanwhile, has hardly covered himself in glory over his years as mayor: attacking striking workers; siding with the Blairite coup plotters against Jeremy Corbyn, and generally maintaining a status quo of poverty, inequality and spiralling homelessness in the capital.
His response to the coronavirus pandemic has been more reactive than proactive, limply calling for additional lockdown measures in London well after they would have been most effective.
The lack of any meaningful left-wing alternative to the hated status quo allows phoney ‘anti-establishment’ figures to win support. Rose will probably be unsuccessful in his run for Mayor of London. But his popularity underlines the urgent need for a class-based, socialist solution to the pandemic, and the crisis of capitalism. This alone will take the wind out of all the demagogues’ sails.