12 April 2008

A Question Of Trust? Ken V Boris.

Ken Livingstone has successfully run London for over 13 years (1981-86, 2000-). After all this time, the majority of Londoners still think he has done a good job - that is some achievement in the face of 13 years of negative daily headlines in the London and national Tory press. Thatcher had to abolish the GLC to get rid of him the first time because the Tories could not beat him at the ballot box - which left London without strategic government for 14 years causing untold damage.

The Tories and Lib Dems in the Lords tried a similar trick in 2007 by trying to stop Ken having more than two terms - knowing once again that...
beating Ken at the ballot box was going to be very difficult.

(As an aside, I have always found it curious that so called liberals could support this 'two term limit' idea. It is not surprising that this anti-democratic idea finds favour on the right of the political spectrum (Ian Dale etc), but shouldn't it be the electorate who decide when they want to get rid of a 'bad' incumbent? It is very difficult to win more than two terms anyway, only Thatcher and Blair have done it in the last 100 years and even then they didn't last the full third term. This stupid rule inflicted Bush on the world when Clinton would have won in 2000 had he been able to stand).

Having failed to beat Ken on the policy issues - Boris now pretends to be 'Ken-lite', the Tories and their press have moved onto smearing Ken's aides as untrustworthy and corrupt (Even the Evening Standard admits that Lee Jasper has done nothing that breaks the law). Ken is probably the most honest and politically brave politician on the scene - which probably explains his longevity.

The headlines Ken now receives about shaking hands with Muslim clerics and criticising Israeli and Saudi government policies, he used to get for setting up phone helplines for gay teenagers and for arguing that peace will only come in Northern Ireland through negotiating with Sinn Fein. Amazing as it now seems, these headlines damaged Ken then but now would be anathema to the public. Ken was proved right.

The majority of the public opposed the congestion charge, the Tory press were relentless in their criticism - but now it is mainstream and every candidate voices support for the central zone if not its expansion (however disingenuously in Boris's case). Ken was proved right once again.

The public say they want straight answers and clear action on 'green' measures, more affordable housing and cheaper public transport. Ken has done this (within his limited powers) and will continue to do this.

It is always put on the incumbent to defend their record and their level of trust but what does that actually amount to anyway? Even if people did trust Boris to deliver - you still have to look at his policies - what he actually says he wants to do.

Do Londoners really want the £25 gas guzzlers charge rejected and the emission zone scrapped? Do Londoners really want less time to cross the road when an extra 500 children will be killed? Do Londoners really want a Mayor that supported Bush and the Iraq War? Do Londoners really want someone who rejected the Kyoto treaty and rejected the report into Stephen Lawrence? Do Londoners really want a Mayor who thinks South Africa would be better under apartheid? Do Londoners really trust someone who agreed to have a journalist beaten up and was only concerned about being found out? Surely these issues are more important than arguing over bendy buses (which are in fact safer and cheaper). On all these issues the opinion polls show Ken to be right.

If Londoners do not get out and vote in record numbers then Boris could be elected. Londoners could lose a Mayor that most think has done a good job and replace him with Boris - who has a record of accumulated incompetence and dishonesty even in the limited responsibilities he has had so far.

Boris's lovable bumbling persona is fine on comedy shows, but his incompetence, dishonesty and incoherence will make London a laughing stock worldwide and do untold damage to the £39bn to be spent on transport and the billions more to be spent on cohesion, infrastructure, the environment and housing.


  1. Neil, all your comments are spot on.
    I might be wrong, but I detect relatively little support for Boris as such. Certainly there is a significant "Anyone but Ken" vote but there is also an "Anyone but Boris" vote, which seems to include some "natural Tories".
    Conversely, I think Ken's support goes wider than the natural Labour vote. Many people do realise that this is a personal more than a party election.
    In my inner city patch, getting the vote out seems, as you say, likely to be the key. In leafier suburbs, I think much might depend on getting Paddick's second preferences. I'm not absolutely confident that the Labour Party machine is properly geared up for this.

  2. Aargh! You've rejigged your template yet again!