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”.
Today’s much-anticipated YouGov poll shows Boris with a slightly increased lead from last Monday – now 4%. It’s a margin-of-error change, though, so the race is still essentially neck-and-neck. Good news that Boris is still ahead, good news that he hasn’t been further affected by any unrelated government stuff, and good news that the race is close enough to convince people that their vote is absolutely crucial.
Given Ken’s toxicity, and specifically how far behind his own party he is in the polls, his team’s last-ditch idea is to try and get Londoners to forget who the Labour candidate even is. We’ve seen already (below left) attempts to almost hide him from voters, letting the nice, less offensive, Mr Miliband do the talking. Then there was his election broadcast (the one played by actors, which Ken wept at) in which Ken barely appeared at all. Now (below right) they’re distributing mayoral election leaflets without any mention of Ken whatsoever.
This embarrassed concealment of a politician reminds me of when no Labour candidate at the General Election wanted Gordon Brown to appear on their literature, and when the Yes to AV campaign refused to let Nick Clegg appear at their events – and we know how both those campaigns turned out.
The position of Mayor of London is probably the most independent, individual role in British politics. If Ken wins, he, not Labour, will run London. If Boris wins, he, not the Tories, will run London. So, as Labour’s Dan Hodges warns…
Despite late efforts by his team to pretend otherwise, please remember a vote for Labour’s mayoral candidate does mean a vote for Ken.
— Dan Hodges (@DPJHodges) April 29, 2012
The same is the case for those people who think they’re in some way spiting Ken by picking Siobhan Benita or Jenny Jones as their first preference, and ‘only’ giving Ken their second preference vote. In both scenarios, Ken gets the vote, and the chances of his return to City Hall are boosted.
If you want to avoid four years of rocketing council tax, rocketing crime, profligate waste, massive congestion charge expansion, corrupt cronies, negligently low levels of transport investment, and attacks on certain minorities more befitting of a pariah state, then you mustn’t – whatever you do – vote for Ken Livingstone.
Here’s an e-petition we can all get behind – an appeal to stop the beer duty escalator, which increases the tax on beer by 2% above the rate of inflation.
As anyone who’s ever worked in the pub industry will know, the role of pubs is vastly understated. They’re crucial local community hubs and employers (particularly of young people and students, who are now struggling so much to find work). That around 1,000 pubs are closing down each year in the UK is evidence that we should be doing far more than we are currently to help keep their costs down.
This is something Boris recognises too, telling CAMRA earlier this month:
“For centuries London’s pubs have played a key role at the heart of their communities, a role which I hope will come to the fore as we prepare to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. These must not, however, be one off events. We must all work to ensure that pubs, as small businesses and community hubs, are given the support they need in tough times.
“It is to this end that I am investing £221 million to transform local high streets and support small businesses. As we make our high streets and neighbouring areas more attractive to shoppers, increasing footfall and the amount of time people spend there, all businesses including pubs will benefit.
“Pubs are so much more than a place to drink and I am determined, with your help, to keep it this way.”
Sign the petition, help pubs, get cheaper beer.
Read the full article here.
This isn’t a new poll, but a correction to the result of a previous one. The Survation poll published on Thursday night was originally reported as giving Boris a 54-46 lead. They actually miscalculated and have now revised the results to 55-45.
I’m very, very sceptical that the gap is as big as that, though would be pretty happy if it is. The next poll due out is, I think, a YouGov one, released tomorrow around lunchtime. I fully expect that to show Boris and Ken back neck-and-neck.
A tuneful new ‘Not Ken Again’ video…
We’re still waiting Ken…
What’s he hiding?
UPDATE: Concern is growing even amongst Labour supporters:
Dear @ken4london, am still struggling to understand the political sense of saying you will publish certified accounts and not doing it. Why?
— Rob Marchant (@rob_marchant) April 28, 2012