The biggest affront to voters at this election is Ken’s outright lie that he would cut transport fares by 7% without reducing investment. Boris says it can’t be done, Brian Paddick says it can’t be done, Channel 4 FactCheck say it can’t be done, TfL say it can’t be done, Tony Travers (local government expert at LSE) says it can’t be done, Stephen Glaister (professor of transport and infrastructure at Imperial College) says it can’t be done.
But even if you chose – as Ken’s supporters do – to ignore that consensus, here’s something else. Even Ken has said that what he’s promising Londoners simply isn’t possible…
As a reminder of Ken’s attempts to spend millions of pounds on a satellite, in order to spy on London motorists from space, this video’s a cracker:
Today’s double edition of Labour Against Ken features not just anger at Ken, but a resignation from the Labour Party over his attitude towards Jews. Jessica Elgot writes:
I’m thinking of starting a support group. Our community is full of charities and counselling services covering every cough, spit and ailment in the medical dictionary. But I think we need another.
I’d call it “I used to vote Labour, but now I don’t know what to do.” To those six Labour supporters who wrote a letter to Ed Miliband last week, expressing their concerns about Ken Livingstone’s obsession with Israel, to the brave Jonathan Freedland, I say: “Comrades! You are not alone!” Together, I daresay we could add hundreds of signatures to that letter. Figures seem to suggest one in three Labour voters won’t back Ken.
I imagine we’d sit in a semi-circle, heads in our hands, recalling how Ken campaigned for Lutfur Rahman – an independent with alleged links to the Islamic Forum of Europe – to be mayor of Tower Hamlets, rather than the Labour candidate. We’d grimace at the memory of his chumminess with controversial Islamic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
This week I plan to return my membership card and cancel my direct debit. I joined because I wanted Labour to stay in government in 2010. I consider myself centre-left, and believe in strong social welfare policies and protecting the NHS from privatisation.
As a member, I am repeatedly asked to campaign with my MP and for Ken. And although his campaign newsletters are now going directly into my junk mail, despite everything, I had some vague notion of being able to grit my teeth and vote Labour in May.
Ken’s remarks last week were not the final straw. The rub is the reaction of the party I felt a loyalty to. The letter came from loyal Labour campaigners and councillors, who were worried about the man their party had picked to represent them.
Can it really be true that nobody in the campaign HQ finds it troubling that Ken believes that all Jews vote Conservative, and that “Jew”, “Israeli” and “Zionist” can be used interchangeably?
Elsewhere, Jennifer Lipman has explained why, as a Jewish Labour supporter, she can’t back Ken Livingstone:
As a Labour voter, I’d really like to be able to support the party at the mayoral election in May. Instead I feel disenfranchised – not because I disagree with what Labour stands for, but because I simply cannot back a candidate who won’t confront concerns about his suitability to run a diverse city.
Let me be clear. Being Jewish is only one part of my identity, and as such it is not the only or even the main factor in how I vote. Still, the problem I have with Ken Livingstone – and I am apparently not alone in feeling that I have to vote against my political allegiances, as a leaked letter to Ed Miliband revealed – is that he is not willing to confront the very real questions over his attitude towards the Jewish community.
It’s not about anti-Semitism. It’s about an entire community feeling uncomfortable in a supposedly inclusive city, their concerns ignored because their political support isn’t considered important. It’s about a mayor who is unrepentant about his friendship with a radical Islamic cleric, and doesn’t see how his cozying up to extremists jars with his claim of a city where “different communities live side by side peacefully”.
I mentioned a couple of days ago that Bob Crow has launched legal action against Boris’ campaign for linking him to Ken Livingstone’s corruption, scandals and cronies. He’s threatening to sue Boris’ team if they don’t make changes to the ‘Not Ken Again’ posters which are currently up all around the capital.
Given just last year Bob likened Ken to a brother and offered to finance his election campaign, Boris rightly has no plans to back down. Instead, he’s launched an appeal, asking for supporters to pledge to help fund any legal expenses incurred in taking on Bob Crow in court. Any unused funds will be donated to a police charity.
Fancy seeing old commie Bob – council house resident despite a £145,000 salary – embarrassed in court? Pledge to help here.
Today’s edition of ‘Labour Against Ken’ features a merciless attack from Dan Hodges. I recommend a read of the whole thing, but these are some of the most stinging bits:
There is an old saying in politics that if you’re going to tell a lie, tell a huge one, because the sheer audacity of the statement will lend it credibility. Livingstone has just used a similar technique, though in this instance not to dissemble, but to denigrate.
The stereotype of the rich, socially divisive Jew is so offensive, so burdened by historical prejudice, that it is on a par with the ignorant but sexually virile black or the scheming, untrustworthy Oriental. And yet it has not been evoked by Nick Griffin or one of the English Defence League’s plastic stormtroopers, but Labour’s official candidate.
And what has the reaction been from the party that claims to be in the vanguard of the fight against prejudice? Silence. Actually, more shameful than silence. Tacit approval.
Ken Livingstone cares about one thing: Ken Livingstone. His sole interest in London is that he is allowed to run it. His sole interest in Londoners is that they constitute the Balkanised electorate that can deliver him the power he craves. And his sole interest in the Labour party is that it currently provides the vehicle through which he can achieve his ambition.
But Labour pretends to see no evil. There is no lie too great, no policy proposal too outlandish, no slur too offensive. The Livingstone tail continues to wag the Labour dog. Ken is not in fact Labour’s candidate; Labour is Ken’s candidate.
Enough. Livingstone is indeed Labour’s candidate. And that is precisely why he and his comments should be condemned. In fact his grotesque stereotyping of the Jewish community should mean he is not only condemned, but stripped of his candidacy. But he won’t be. Ed Miliband is too weak. Labour’s army of youthful London activists too star-struck. Its MPs too keen on a quiet life.
March 27, 2012 Boris Johnson Comments Off
On behalf of Londoners, Boris today presented the Queen with a special edition Oyster Card to mark her Diamond Jubilee. In a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, he made the following address:
‘We, the Mayor of London and the Members of the London Assembly – representatives of the people of London – heartily congratulate Your Majesty on the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Your Accession.
When Your Majesty’s forebear William the Conqueror crossed the Channel and defeated King Harold at Hastings, it was to London that he hastened for his coronation, in the great church at Westminster founded by Edward the Confessor.
And it was on the banks of the Thames, across the river from where City Hall now stands, that the Conqueror established the White Tower, to command access to the city and to make secure his claim to the throne.
Since that time – nearly a millennium – London has been the home of the monarchy and Londoners have been proud to be the Sovereign’s neighbours as well as subjects. Whether in Richmond, Hampton Court or Kew, Greenwich or Eltham, or in Westminster, Whitehall and Kensington, Londoners have lived alongside their Kings and Queens for centuries. Long may they continue so to do.
On behalf of the people of London – and those who serve the city in its emergency services, its transport network and the agencies and offices of the Greater London Authority – we give thanks for Your Majesty’s sixty years of service to London, and affectionately offer Your Majesty our most loyal congratulations on the occasion of Your Diamond Jubilee.’
[UPDATE: See the Oyster Card design here.]
With all recent polls having showed that Boris is far more popular than his party, whilst Ken is far less popular than his, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Ken is keen that the mayoral battle should be seen as ‘Tories vs Labour’, as opposed to ‘Boris vs Ken’.
A leaked Labour strategy document, seen by the Evening Standard, acknowledged that Ken had been damaged by the controversy surrounding his tax avoidance, and had struggled to get his case across to Londoners. The new plan, the document revealed, would be to focus on issues coming out of last week’s Budget. In other words, Ken’s campaign has essentially admitted that it can’t win a straight ‘Boris vs Ken’ fight on London issues, so is instead going to focus on other Tory politicians and other – national – issues.
As a visual representation of this new strategy, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls et al headed out to Bromley earlier today to meet voters and talk to the media. At times, Ken was seen almost cowering behind his more popular party leader, as Miliband led the way. Meanwhile Balls desperately tried to convince anyone who would listen that this election is all about George Osborne.
Whether the strategy will be a success or not largely depends on Londoners’ understanding of the Mayoral role, and whether they think it can have an impact on national decisions. However much they might not have liked the Budget – indeed, many of us on the blue side weren’t too keen either – any idea that Ken could have halted or reversed any of the measures is clearly fanciful. Boris is no more responsible for Osborne’s changes to personal allowances than Ken was for Gordon Brown’s scrapping of the 10p rate in 2007.
As Ken demonstrated when he won as an independent in 2000, the London mayoralty isn’t about parties, governments or oppositions. It’s about the character and policies of the individual candidates, and it’s on that criteria that Londoners will base their decisions.
Boris’s transport manifesto, launched today, highlights both achievements from his first term and detailed second-term plans.
Reflecting on his first term, Boris notes that, amongst other things, tube delays are down 40%, crime on the Tube is down by 20%, crime on buses is down 30%, the ban on alcohol on public transport has had a hugely positive impact, Labour’s unworkable PPP scheme was scrapped, bendy buses were scrapped, the New Bus for London was delivered, Boris bikes were launched, and investment for Crossrail and tube upgrades was secured, creating 32,000 jobs.
His second-term plans include massive, much-needed, further investment in the Underground, new signalling track and stations, significantly improving disabled access to Tube stations, air-conditioned trains, bringing delays down by another 30%, the introduction of driverless trains, ending the unions’ ability to hold the capital to ransom, rolling out 600 more new Routemasters onto London’s streets, significant further expansion of the Boris bikes scheme, the doubling of travel by river, lobbying for increased aviation capacity while opposing a third runway at Heathrow, withdrawing free travel from young people who behave badly on public transport, trebling the number of cycle superhighways…(I could go on).
I recommend a read of the document in full. It’s packed with innovative and often radical proposals, which would truly transform every aspect of London transport.
It’s time for my near-daily installment of ‘Labour Against Ken’. Following criticism of Ken from Nick Cohen, Rob Marchant, Mehdi Hasan, Jonathan Roberts, Rob Marchant (again) and Jonathan Freedland, today John Rentoul – Independent columnist and Tony Blair’s biographer – has briefly outlined why he’ll be voting for Boris on May 3rd. He cites, amongst a few choice quotations, Ken’s claim that capitalism is worse than Hitler, and his admission that he never voted Labour while Tony Blair was leader. If he couldn’t show loyalty to Labour, one naturally asks why Labour should now show loyalty to Ken…
Elsewhere, Bob Crow – of RMT and far-Left Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition fame – has hilariously reacted with anger at the ‘Not Ken Again’ posters which have gone up around London in recent weeks. He’s threatened to sue Boris, arguing that being linked to Ken paints him as ”part of a corrupt, venal, scandalous, wasteful group of cronies” (I couldn’t have put it better myself…). It seems that even despite having previously likened Ken to a brother and offered to fund his campaign, Bob is now concerned that being associated with Ken could damage his reputation…
Probably not Ken’s favourite front page ever…
But then I guess things could always be worse…