Hear that gunshot-like sound? It was Ken Livingstone firing the premature opening salvo of what he hopes will be a 2012 head-to-head between himself and Boris Johnson for City Hall.
In an interview with Building Design magazine, Livingstone lays into his successor's record on architecture and public spaces. Provoked by the resignation of Lord Rogers as London's architectural advisor — a move he says was "no surprise" — the former Mayor accuses Johnson of "squandering" his budget on ideologically-driven projects like replacing the bendy bus, instead of spending it on improving the city's civic environment ahead of the fortnight in 2012 when we'll be in the goldfish bowl.
Red Ken reckons the Mayor's Great Places scheme is simply derivative of work he himself had set in motion, and cites decisions like abandoning the pedestrianisation of Parliament Square ("a disgusting tip") as evidence that, when it comes to architecture and design, "nothing is happening". Seems a little unfair: the Oxford Circus diagonal crossing recently opened, while Boris has given the nod to skycrapers that have disappointed his supporters; and his plans for an 'Eiffel Tower' in the Olympic park demonstrate a desire to make architectural statements (though not one Londoners necessarily want to see happen).
Naturally, it so happens that the former GLC boss has a solution for those who share his concerns about Boris' faillings: Vote Ken in 2012! Architecture and public space will be at the forefront of his campaign, and if confidence was worth a dime in an election, Livingstone would be a shoe-in: his promises to scrub up London "won't happen in one term, but the period up to 2020". That's the 2016 vote in the bag then!
Whether Londoners are ready to welcome back a mayor they handily ejected only last year, one whose bellicose politicking and white-knuckled grip on the levers of power alienated as many as it cheered, is another matter.