One of the biggest criticisms of politics these days is that there isn’t enough difference between the main parties; that it makes no real difference who you vote for. Well, that’s not a charge that can be levied at the two main London mayoral candidates.
Londoners have a choice…
- …between Boris, who has overseen a 12% cut in crime and the murder rate fall to its lowest since 1969, and Ken, who insisted he felt “no responsibility” for the murders of young Londoners.
- …between Boris, who is driving through the biggest and most needed upgrade to the Tube in its history, and Ken, who wants to cut the transport budget by over £1billion.
- …between Boris, who has frozen or cut council tax each year, and will cut it by another 10% over the next four years, and Ken, who increased it by 152% – costing the average household an extra £964.
- …between Boris, who has fully-costed plans to create an extra 200,000 new jobs over the next four years, and Ken, whose six main policies make no mention of jobs or employment whatsoever.
- …between Boris, who has cut £2billion of waste from across the GLA group, and Ken, whose mayoralty became synonymous with profligate waste.
- …between Boris, who has a fully-costed, fully-funded manifesto, and Ken, whose manifesto includes £2.7billion of unfunded commitments.
- …between Boris, who has met 91% of the pledges he made in his 2008 manifesto, and Ken, who broke his promises – particularly on fares – at every juncture during his mayoralty.
- …between Boris, who has positively and optimistically united our great capital, and Ken, a truly divisive politician, who plays different communities off against each other.
Given that clear choice, many people seem to be under the impression that Boris is certain of victory; that the race is won already. They’re wrong. With George Galloway stirring up religious divisions, with Lee Jasper doing his best to provoke racial tensions, with Bob Crow trying to arm-twist his members, with Tower Hamlets apparently a hive of electoral fraud, and with the last YouGov poll giving Boris just a 3% lead, there’s still a very real chance Ken could win.
It’s absolutely imperative that anyone who wants positive, tolerant, responsible, cost-effective, unifying government in London gets down to their polling station and backs Boris.
On 4th April, at the Newsnight mayoral debate, Ken Livingstone said “I’m happy to publish details of everything I’ve earnt in the last four years.” He didn’t, and he hasn’t.
On 24th April, under heavy fire at the London Jewish Forum, Ken said “I’m happy to get my accountant to certify my accounts.” He didn’t, and he hasn’t.
On 25th April, Ken told the Evening Standard that he would publish his certified accounts online “shortly”. He didn’t, and he hasn’t.
Three promises made; three promises broken. With polls opening in about fifteen hours time, I think we can safely assume that Ken never will release his infamous company accounts. I know of two journalists who have approached his team on this issue in the last two days; both have been met with a wall of silence. Clearly the accounts are so riddled with evidence of hypocrisy that releasing them would be more electorally damaging than breaking his promises to Londoners.
There are two issues here:
Firstly, having seen demonstrable evidence of Ken’s unashamed willingness to say one thing and do another, to make a promise and then instantly renege on it, how can he expect Londoners to trust any of the other pledges he’s made during the election campaign? As we saw time and time again between 2000-2008, his duplicity truly knows no bounds.
Secondly, given Ken’s silence on his tax affairs, and given his refusal to even deny any of the allegations made over the last few days, we can only assume that the claims are accurate. It was already calculated that Ken’s paid just 14.5% income tax – a lower rate than even a City Hall cleaner – but further calculations have estimated that he’s avoided around £220,000 of tax over three years. From a man who has railed against tax avoidance, and who claims to be motivated by the concerns of the poor and needy, it’s frankly contemptible hypocrisy.
Let’s have a look at what £220,000 could pay for in these difficult economic times:
Tomorrow, Londoners have an opportunity to pass judgement on Ken’s career of broken promises and scandalous hypocrisy. They should seize it.
Whatever your political views, whatever your opinion of David Cameron or Andrew Gilligan, I think most reasonable, tolerant, moderate people would say that to compare either of them to Anders Behring Breivik – the Norwegian monster who killed 70 kids – is pretty reprehensible. Of course, Ken Livingstone isn’t reasonable, tolerant or moderate, and has done precisely that. As seen in the video over at Harry’s Place, Ken says all three men are on the same right-wing “spectrum of intolerance”.
But who was the last person to make such crude and depraved comparisons? Ah yes – step forward Lee Jasper, Ken Livingstone’s £120,000-a-year stooge in City Hall. Just days after the horrific events last summer, Jasper joked that Breivik and Boris “could be brothers”. Then, a few weeks ago, he claimed that Breivik is the Tories’ “soul brother” and that Conservative politics had “inspired Breivik”. Jasper and Ken are evidently two peas in the same particularly nasty pod.
Just as polls show that Ken is losing the support of even Labour supporters, let alone floating voters, and just as he needs to put on a more moderate, inclusive, unifying front, his bitterness and divisiveness can’t help but shine through.
Let’s be quite clear, here. We’re backing two concurrent campaigns. There’s the campaign to get Boris re-elected – and I blogged yesterday on his tremendous set of achievements as mayor – and then there’s the campaign to end the political career of one of the most divisive politicians in British politics. By turning out and voting for Boris tomorrow, Londoners have the chance to do both.
The choice that Londoners have on Thursday couldn’t be made much clearer than this…
Boris needs your help on Thursday…
Yesterday I gave you 50 reasons to not vote Ken. Today, in no particular order, and in what is by no means a comprehensive list, I give you 50 reasons to back Boris.
- London’s murder rate is now at its lowest since 1969(£), down 26% since Boris took office.
- Tube delays are down 40% since Boris took office. He pledges to cut delays by another 30% if he wins a second term.
- London Underground is now the safest metro system in Europe, with tube crime down by 20% since Boris took office.
- Boris has fully-funded, fully-costed plans to create almost 200,000 new jobs across London over the next four years.
- Boris has launched the biggest upgrade of the Tube in its history – increasing capacity by 30%, new signalling, new trains, station upgrades, air-conditioned trains, vastly improved disabled access and more.
- Boris froze the mayor’s share of council tax for his first three years, and cut it this year. He pledges to cut it by a further 10% over the next four years.
- Boris has met 91% of his 2008 manifesto pledges – as outlined in his ‘Progress Report to Londoners‘.
- Crime overall is down 12% since Boris became mayor.
- Boris delivered the New Bus for London - complete with cutting-edge, environmentally-friendly, hybrid technology. He pledges to put 600 on London’s streets by 2016, if he wins a second term.
- Boris has quadrupled the number of Rape Crisis Centres in London.
- Boris has cut £2billion of waste from across the GLA group, with plans to save a further £1.5billion next year.
- Boris has created 54,000 apprenticeships, with figures showing that 84% remain in continued employment. He pledges to generate a further 250,000 apprenticeships by 2016.
- Boris has delivered 52,000 new affordable homes since he took office. He’s on course to reach 100,000 by 2015.
- Boris is investing £221million to transform local high streets and support small businesses.
- Boris, more than any other candidate, is able to unite London – uninterested in playing different communities off against each other.
- Boris pledges to boost Safer Neighbourhood Teams, with an extra 2,000 police, including adding up to three police officers and three specials to every team.
- As part of a cycling revolution, Boris has introduced Boris Bikes and delivered Cycle Superhighways. He pledges to expand the hire scheme across London and treble the number of superhighways if he wins a second term.
- Boris has a +20 approval rating, the kind of popularity that Cameron (-27), Miliband (-41) and Clegg (-53) would probably kill for.
- Boris is a moderate, centrist, tolerant representative of London. According to opinion polls, Boris has a huge lead amongst Londoners when it comes to who they want to represent them both abroad and at the Olympic Games.
- Bus crime is down 32.9% since Boris become mayor.
- Boris scrapped the Western Extension of the Congestion Charge Zone, resulting in a negligible impact on congestion or traffic speeds, but providing a boost to local businesses.
- Boris scrapped the bendy buses (otherwise known as ‘Ken’s Chariots of Fire’).
- Boris has delivered 10,000 street trees and pledges to increase the number to 20,000 if he wins a second term.
- Boris supports a green economy, pledging to retrofit tens of thousands of homes to reduce households’ energy bills, rolling out electric car charging points across London and investing £6million to improve 300 acres of parkland.
- Boris rolled out the use of Oyster cards on National Rail and Thames Clipper services.
- Boris secured £22billion of investment – thought to be at risk, due to the government’s cuts – for Crossrail and the tube upgrades.
- There are now 1,000 more police on London’s streets than there were when Boris took office.
- Boris has made knife crime a priority – taking over 11,000 knives off the streets and tackling reoffending with initiatives such as the Heron Unit at Feltham.
- Boris launched the Outer London Fund, aimed at addressing the historic neglect of the outer boroughs.
- Boris has visited every London borough more times in four years that Ken Livingstone did in eight years.
- Boris has helped deliver the Olympics on time and on budget, and with the enthusiasm of a genuine sports fan.
- There are now one million more police patrols each year than there were when Boris took office.
- Boris introduced the highly successful ‘Earn Your Travel back’ scheme, whereby young people have their free travel removed for bad behaviour, and can only earn it back by volunteering in community activities.
- Boris pledges to introduce the first driverless (though not unmanned) trains on the London Underground, ending union barons’ ability to hold Londoners to ransom.
- Boris launched Team London, liaising with hundreds of organisations to mobilise thousands of volunteers across London.
- Robberies are down 16.3% since Boris took office.
- Youth violence is down 13.8% since Boris took office.
- Boris launched the Mayor’s Fund for London, a charity aimed at helping children and young people get out of poverty.
- Boris has doubled the number of Special Constables in London, from 2,500 to 5,000, since he became mayor. He aims to double the number again if he wins a second term.
- To aid transparency and accountability, Boris ensured that all spending decisions over £500 are published online. He now pledges to go even further – by publishing all spending over £250 across the GLA group, as well as the expenses of all senior staff and mayoral advisors.
- Boris introduced a permit scheme for road works, reducing road works by 17% and saving London 150,000 days of street works in just 12 months.
- By a significant margin, opinion polls show Boris’ policies are thought to be the best to boost businesses, create jobs and help London get out of recession.
- Boris has a good working relationship with the government, and has been able to secure significant funding and concessions as a result.
- Boris scrapped Ken’s highly unpopular Thames Gateway Bridge plans, which had prompted nearly 5,000 objections during the public consultation.
- Boris maintained the Freedom Pass, extending it to 24 hours and for disabled people. He pledges to reverse the last Labour government’s decision to stop Londoners getting their Freedom Pass at 60.
- Boris has fully-funded plans for a true Olympic legacy – including 10,000 jobs, 11,000 new homes, and a £30million sporting programme which will benefit 250,000 Londoners.
- Boris pays all his taxes. (Yes, Ken, we’re still waiting…)
- Boris will create Safer Neighbourhood Boards in every borough, giving local Londoners and victims a greater voice, giving them a say in offenders’ ‘Community Payback’ and investing in their local and hyperlocal crime prevention projects.
- Boris pledges to launch a new £70million London Growth Fund, investing in job and skill creation programmes, and providing low-cost loans to small and medium-sized businesses.
- And finally… Boris is a one-man gangbuster - rescuing a woman from an armed group of “oiks”.
On the front page, above the fold, the Evening Standard announced today that they’re backing Boris in Thursday’s election. That, in itself, isn’t too surprising. Ken’s relationship with the paper has been frosty ever since he hurled Nazi abuse at one of their journalists, while Boris has done the kind of centrist, inclusive job that sensible newspapers like.
The paper’s reasoning for the endorsement is interesting. They say Boris has “campaigned tirelessly for London’s interests”, arguing that the complexion of the government has not mattered as much as Boris’s ”independence of mind in championing our city”.
They say “his vision of what London needs is driven foremost by the capital’s economic interests” and commend him for prioritising ”the investment in transport infrastructure that our economy so urgently needs”. They say Boris “has proved a popular figure able to unite this diverse city”.
Compare and contrast that generous endorsement with the one offered to Ken Livingstone by the Guardian. The endorsement itself is as unsurprising as the Evening Standard one, but the reasoning is half-hearted at best. It could be loosely paraphrased as ‘Look, we know he’s awful. Maybe just give him your second preference votes, yeah?’ They mention specifically Ken’s “cronyism”, “offensiveness to Jewish voters”, “tax position, which offends ordinary voters” and “ethnic politicking”.
That will do nothing to change the minds of those 16% of Labour voters (£) who are ready and willing to back Boris.
Well, this one’s sent my complacency-risk meter through the roof. Tonight’s Times/Populus poll (£) suggests – almost unbelievably – that Boris’ lead over Ken is now 12%. If Boris wins by that kind of margin, I’ll personally lead the celebrations through the streets of London, but we truly can’t afford to assume it’s right.
The only pollster that perfectly predicted the 2008 result was YouGov, who this morning had Boris just 52-48 ahead. If that’s accurate, or even possibly overstating the gap (given the margin of error, it could even be 51-49), Boris can’t afford to lose any votes through people complacently assuming that the race is already won.
The polls close in not much more than 72 hours time. We’re nearly there. If you’re making calls, get calling. If you’re knocking on doors, get knocking. If you’re voting on Thursday, or giving others a lift to the polling station, make sure you do just that. Let’s make one final push, irrespective of the polls, and then see where we stand at 10pm on Thursday.
In no particular order, and in what is by no means a comprehensive list, here are 50 reasons to not vote for Ken Livingstone:
1) Ken invited to London, embraced and defended Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a man who defends Palestinian suicide bombers, condones wife-beating, favours female genital mutilation, and advocates the persecution of Jews and homosexuals.
2) One of Ken’s senior staffers complained of “sexism” and of “an abusive culture” on his election campaign. She claims she was used as a “pretty face” and “token Asian”.
3) During his 8 years in City Hall, Ken increased the mayor’s share of Londoners’ council tax by 152% – costing the average London family an extra £964.
4) Ken hurled Nazi abuse at a Jewish Evening Standard journalist, prompting an Adjudication Panel to suspend him from office for a month (although the suspension was later quashed).
5) Ken put tens of thousands of pounds of personal expenses on his City Hall credit card – including £6,405 on a first-class return ticket to Miami, £2,884 on a single wine spree, £257 on a pair of shoes and £616 on two dinners with Ed Balls.
6) Ken campaigned against his party in supporting the extremist-linked Lutfur Rahman‘s bid to become Mayor of Tower Hamlets.
7) Ken sparked anger after pronouncing we should “hang a banker a week”.
8) There’s a wide coalition of experts – including Ken – who say that his pledge to cut fares is an unfunded deceit.
9) Tax avoidance: Ken has channelled over £750,000 of income into a private company, meaning he has paid a lower rate of income tax than even a City Hall cleaner. This despite him having insisted that tax avoiders should not be allowed to vote. He now refuses to publish his certified accounts, despite having repeatedly promised to do so.
10) Tax evasion?: The less-mentioned part of Ken’s tax scandal is that he has also been reported to HMRC over ‘irregular’ tax deductible expenses.
11) Ken’s team lied about the use of actors in his election broadcast, at which he wept in front of journalists. One of the people in the film, an old lady, was asked to reminisce about Ken introducing free bus passes – despite free bus passes for old people having been introduced eight years before Ken became leader of the GLC.
12) Ken sparked fury by comparing Boris to Adolf Hitler.
13) Ken has made £2.7billion of unfunded spending commitments during this campaign. To afford the pledges – which include extravagances such as £54million on cinema tickets – the average London household’s council tax would have to increase by £348, and the congestion charge would need to be raised to £15.
14) Ken claimed the killing of the world’s most renowned terrorist, Osama bin Laden, made President Obama look like a “mobster”.
15) Ken sparked outrage by saying the Tory Party was “riddled” with homosexuals.
16) Ken was accused of ‘dog-whistle politics’ after calling for London to become a “beacon of Islam”.
17) Ken spent £20,500 of taxpayers’ money on a lunch for his old socialist chum Hugo Chavez.
18) Ken was accused of “crass political opportunism” after blaming the London riots on Boris and the government.
19) Ken said he “didn’t feel responsible” for the 26 teenage murders on London’s streets in 2007.
20) The independent Forensic Audit Panel said that the London Development Agency under Ken had squandered tens of millions of pounds of public money. It had “misspent money on a massive scale”, they said.
21) Ken is dependent on the trade unions for both financial and political support, meaning he can never stand up to their strikes and pay demands.
22) Ken told a group of Jewish Labour supporters that Jews would not vote for him because they are rich. He was also accused of ”highly offensive” language by using the words Zionist, Jewish and Israeli interchangeably.
23) Ken ensured eight of his closest cronies received taxpayer-funded pay-offs totalling £1.6 million after he changed the rules shortly before he lost the 2008 election.
25) Ken is lying to London’s youngsters by telling them he would reinstate EMA payments, when Channel 4′s FactCheck has already adjudicated that he would be unable to do so.
26) The London Assembly passed a motion condemning Ken for comparing Boris’ chief of staff Sir Eddie Lister to the Serbian war criminal Ratko Mladic.
27) Ken scrapped London’s Routemasters three years after saying “Only some ghastly dehumanised moron would want to get rid of the Routemaster.”
28) Ken variously juggled seven jobs when Mayor. He was MP for Brent East for over a year, Evening Standard columnist, Morning Star columnist, Independent columnist, he ran a company into which he channelled income from paid speeches, and he found time for occasional Have I Got News For You appearances. He later criticised Boris for having a Telegraph column.
29) Ken told a young Tory councillor that he wanted him to ”burn in hell” and “your flesh flayed [by] demons for all eternity.”
30) A television documentary revealed that Ken regularly drank whisky at 10 o’clock in the morning whilst Mayor.
31) After leaving City Hall, Ken got a job working for Press TV – the propaganda arm of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iranian regime.
32) Violent crime in London went up by more than 11% during Ken’s mayoralty.
33) Ken has said that if he wins the election he would work closely with the Greens, who want to increase the congestion charge to up to £40 a day.
35) Many people in Ken’s own party are refusing to back him. They include Labour peers Lord Sugar (who wrote an entire Sun article urging people not to back Ken) and Lord Winston (who attacked Ken’s “disastrous” and “unhealthy” politics), Tony Blair’s biographer John Rentoul, and respected Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland.
36) Ken seems to have an unhealthy interest in the Third Reich. In his autobiography, there are 23 references to Nazis and 16 mentions of Hitler. He mentions Zionism more times than TfL.
37) Ken dismissed the deaths of two teenagers, blaming the media for hyping the story - declaring “if it bleeds, it leads”.
38) Ken spent £36,000 of taxpayers’ money on a jaunt to Cuba and Venezuela.
39) Ken ignored knife crime during his mayoralty. It wasn’t even measured until his final year in office.
40) Lee Jasper. No further comment necessary.
41) Between 2001/02 and 2007/08, public disorder offences on the Tube increased by 521%, with violent crime up by 56%.
42) Ken has said he will force through his plans for the Thames Gateway Bridge, despite strong opposition in Bexley and Greenwich. During the public consultation in 2005-06, 4,800 objections were made by local residents.
43) At both the 2000 and 2004 elections, Ken pledged to freeze fares. In both cases he broke his promise, by hiking fares up shortly afterwards.
44) In 2003, Ken pledged to freeze the congestion charge for ten years. In 2005, he increased it by 60%.
45) Ken wants to re-establish the dodgy oil deal with Venezuela – a deal he said was “only controversial if you believe the CIA’s take on Chavez”.
46) Ken appointed Bob Crow – responsible for so many disruptive strikes in London – to the Transport for London board.
47) Ken spent £2.8million a year on his propaganda newsletter The Londoner.
48) Ken has said that anyone who doesn’t vote for him “will burn forever. Your skin flayed for all eternity.”
49) During his two terms as mayor, Ken spent £27,997,000 of taxpayers’ money on publicity and advertising.
50) Ken doesn’t even like the job of mayor, telling journalists earlier this month that he is “opposed to the idea of directly-elected mayors”.