Boris, Ken, or someone else?

Non-Londoners can skip this post, I won’t be offended.

The time has come for those of us who live in The Great Wen to decide who we want to be Mayor of this great metropolis for the next four years. Although there are seven candidates, unfortunately I think our choice probably boils down to, do we dislike Ken more than Boris or vice versa?

Here, in alphabetical order are the seven candidates and the parties they represent:

Name Party
Siobhan BENITA Independant
Carlos CORTIGLIA British National Party
Boris JOHNSON The Conservative Party Candidate
Jenny JONES Green Party
Ken LIVINGSTONE The Labour Party Candidate
Brian PADDICK London Liberal Democrats
Lawrence James WEBB Fresh Choice for London (UKIP)

Clicking on the candidate’s name will take you to their website, except for the B.N.P. candidate, who does not seem to have a dedicated website, so clicking on his name takes you to his Wikipedia entry.

Lets take a quick look at the minor candidates first.

Both the BNP and UKIP seem to think that the Mayor of London has more powers than he actually has. The BNP wants their Mayor to build a better NHS and pledges that they will not allow an amnesty for illegal immigrants. I might be wrong, but building (or currently destroying) the NHS is probably down to the Secretary of State for Health and granting an amnesty for illegal immigrants (not that there has ever been one suggested by either of the main parties) would probably come under the Home Secretaries remit. The UKIP Mayoral candidate, judging by his policies appears to think that the Mayor can unilaterally withdraw London from the EU. Both of them also seem to think that the Mayor can ban non-UK citizens from working in London.
If they don’t know what they Mayor can and can’t do then I think we can move on.

Siobhan Benita, the Independent candidate, is more interesting. I can agree with a lot of her ideas, especially on education, housing and infrastructure. Interestingly she is the only candidate to advocate building a third runway at Heathrow. If she was standing as the Labour or Liberal Democrat candidate (her ideas would fit reasonably well with both parties) I might consider giving her my vote, but as an Independent, she will find it difficult to garner the support she needs.

Jenny Jones, the Green Party candidate, is the only candidate with a well thought out and practical plan to turn London into a cycling city, along the lines of Amsterdam or Copenhagen, and for that alone you should consider voting for her. While cycling in London isn’t a dangerous as it is often perceived to be, it is not safe either, as she says:

It may well be fine if you are confident, experienced and physically fit, but we want roads where everyone feels safe whether you are 7 years old or 70.

Some of the other policies I am a bit more ambivalent about, though she is good on transport and recycling, slightly less so on what to do with non-recyclable waste.

Brian Paddick, probably doesn’t see himself as a minor candidate, but he is. He is not going to win, but the second preference votes of people who vote for him might, in fact probably will, decide who does.
He builds is candidacy on the following facts. For the first time the Mayor will be directly responsible for the Metropolitan Police, and he was a police officer for over 30 years. I will admit that during his time as Borough Commander he came up with some interesting and moderately radical (too radical for the Daily Mail) ideas on policing. The “big idea” on policing seems to be this:

If elected Mayor and London’s “Police and Crime Commissioner” I would make it my top priority to bring the police and public together, so that criminals don’t stand a chance.

Reading his manifesto it seems to me that he isn’t actually running for Mayor the position he wants is Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. I want to elect a Mayor not a police chief. He is also a Liberal Democrat and I haven’t forgiven them yet.

Boris or Ken?

Here we have our choice then Boris or Ken, Punch or Judy, Scylla or Charybdis?
The best thing I can say about Boris Johnson is that he wasn’t (quite) as big a disaster for London as I feared he might be. He comes across as a cuddly buffoon, but is actually a very calculating politician.
There are two Londons, the divide is not between Inner London and the Outer London suburbs as some suppose, and Boris Johnson tries to pretend, the divide is between the City of London and Greater London.
The London that he has been Mayor for is not Greater London, he has been Mayor for the City of London.
Billy Bragg links to a story in the Sunday Telegraph and points out:

Two headlines from the Sunday Telegraph today – ‘Boris Johnson: We need more tax cuts’ and ‘Rich get richer’. Could the two be in some way connected?

The one thing that people will probably remember him for, the TFL Cycle Hire scheme a.k.a “Boris Bikes” wasn’t even his idea. Jenny Jones (the Green candidate) came up with it and Ken Livingstone adopted it during his last period as Mayor. It just happened to be introduced during his term in office, but he gives himself the credit for it. Similarly with introducing Oyster Cards on the rail system in London. The donkey work was done before his election in 2008, all he had to do was dot the i’s and cross the t’s.
What have his achievements been, well, he got rid of ‘bendy buses’ to keep the cab drivers happy and replaced them with white elephants, sorry Modern Routemasters, that is if they ever get enough built.
His reaction to last summer’s riots was late, ineffective and patronising, to put it mildly.
I won’t be voting for Mr Johnson.

That leaves Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London from 2000 to 2008, Leader of the GLC before its abolition by Margaret Thatcher back in the 1980’s and known to most Londoners as ‘Ken’.

In years gone by I would have said “Vote for Ken, he is the only candidate who actually understands London.” This time I am not so sure. I could be that I think he has been around too long – he is 67 this year – I think that Labour would have been better with Oona King as their candidate, but they plumped for the devil they knew instead. A few other things are also bothering me. There is a vague whiff of Anti-Semitism around some of his statements. There is also a feeling that he has been opaque about his financial affairs. Having said all that, his policies, cutting public transport fares and the reintroduction (in London) of the Educational Maintenance Allowance, and support for childcare, seem to me to be the best package on offer and look affordable.
Along with every other candidate he pledges to reduce crime and make housing more affordable. I can’t recall ever having heard a politician pledge to allow crime to increase, so I think we will ignore that one. Making housing more affordable is more easily said than done and while I am sure they are all sincere in their wish to get housing cost down, again I think that should be taken with a pinch of salt.

My vote, without any great enthusiasm will be cast for Ken Livingston. As the Mayoral election is a sort of Alternative Vote, I was toying with the idea of giving my first preference to either Siobhan Benita or Jenny Jones, with my second preference to Ken Livingstone, but I think I might as well just vote for him and leave the second preference blank. There is no point in putting a minor candidate as your second choice, because they will all be out by the time the second choice votes are counted. If you want to support a minor candidate put them as your first choice and the vote for Livingstone as your second preference.

As for the London Assembly my advice is this vote Labour for the Constituency Member (elected on First Past the Post) and vote Green for the London wide additional member – we need some greens on the assembly to make sure that the other parties keep to their pledges on the environment.

So to summarise this is how I recommend that you vote

  • Mayor – Ken Livingston – reluctantly
  • Constituency Member – Labour
  • London Wide – Green

4 thoughts on “Boris, Ken, or someone else?”

  1. The best résume I have seen or heard so far. Still undecided though. Will probably decide as my pencil hovers over the ballot papers.


  2. ” A vague whiff of Anti-Semitism” and yet you recommend that people “reluctantly” vote for him.
    I was really shocked that you recommended him if you even thought there was ” a vague whiff of Anti-Semitism” about him. I know our politics differ and I would agree with your sentements concerning Oona King and think that she would make a good mayor. ( She lives in a converted pub !!!). But to reluctantly recommend Livingstone is just WRONG.


    1. My endorsement is reluctant, but the alternative is worse, and he (Boris Johnson) doesn’t have a great record on religion/race misspeak front either, remember the “smiling picaninis”.
      The editorial in today’s Guardian expresses my feelings slightly more eloquently. Click on it if you can bring yourself to read the Guardian.


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