A new YouGov poll just out has Boris leading Ken 51-49 after second preferences are taken into account. In many ways, Boris’ reduced lead – the result of the government’s troubles as opposed to anything he’s done wrong – is actually rather good news. It’s long been a concern of mine that Boris’ backers might assume that the race is won, perhaps not turn out to vote in full force, and – as Andrew Gilligan put it – “let Ken in through the cat flap”. Given the two candidates are now virtually neck-and-neck, with just ten days to go, that kind of complacency shouldn’t now be an issue, and virtually guarantees an improved turnout for Boris.
I’ll update this further when I get a look at the poll data.
When Ken told MayorWatch that he wouldn’t explain how he’ll pay for his plans until the day after the election, it was assumed that this was just another one of his ‘jokes’. But now, with just 50 days until the election, and with his costly pledges piling up, and without even an attempt to explain how he would pay for any of them, we must start to wonder if he was actually being serious.
Any subtlety has been abandoned; Ken is now simply trying to bribe anyone who’ll listen with any policy they want to hear, regardless of the conscious duplicity required to pledge things that he knows he can’t deliver. ‘Puppies for all! And a free cake! What? Ok, two free cakes!’ There’s the fares cut costing over £1billion, the reinstatement of EMA, the creation of a London rental agency and a London energy company (Kenron?), the further increase in police numbers, and now childcare grants. All superficially attractive bribes, and all completely unaffordable. What’s more, half of them are not just unaffordable but unworkable – Ken’s EMA pledge, for example, has been declared ‘Fiction’ by Channel 4′s FactCheck on logistical as well as financial grounds.
Given the massive cost of his pledges already, even if Ken did win the election, and even if he did reveal his budgetary plans the day after as promised, I can only assume they would involve some kind of magic money tree. Either that or a colossal council tax rise – but given he claims he would replicate Boris’s council tax freeze, a broken pledge on his first day in office would be a record even by his standards…
The penny might be starting to drop…
I wonder who Boris was thinking of when he wrote this about non-doms:
“At least they are frank about what they are doing. They are not hypocrites, like some people, ahem, I could mention – no names, no pack drill – who foamingly denounce tax avoidance, and call for bankers to be hung, and who then turn out to have elaborate schemes to avoid paying the full whack of income tax on their earnings.”
Boris launching his 9 Point Plan for a Greater London, on Saturday…
I headed down to Parsons Green earlier to see the launch of Boris’ new poster campaign. Each poster states one of the nine pledges which make up the ’9 point plan for a Greater London’ that Boris revealed yesterday. The pledges combine to form a really positive and ambitious blueprint for the London of the future – a greener London benefitting from lower taxes, more jobs, less crime, more affordable housing, thriving local businesses and a transport network that is at last getting the investment it so desperately needs.
While I was there, Boris gave an interview to LBC in which Londoners will have heard him sounding really genuinely passionate about the pledges themselves and, more broadly, the positive impact that they would each have on both Londoners as individuals and London as a city.
By ‘Investing in London’s Future’ now, we can not only secure a bright future but almost accelerate towards it. Over the next two months (it’s now just 60 days until Londoners head to the polls) Boris will outline in detail how we can reach the future he envisages for the capital. These nine pledges are a very good start.
Just a week after the Channel 4 FactCheck series adjudicated that Ken Livingstone’s pledge to cut fares is nothing other than an unfunded deceit, they’ve today dismissed more of his claims on transport. The claim on one of his election leaflets that “Fares might be soaring, but the service is plummeting! Delays and line closures have become a daily part of Londoners’ lives.” has been easily disproved by, erm, facts.
FactCheck have compared the average number of stations closed, number of journeys delayed, excess journey time and lost customer hours on the Tube under the two mayors. The number of stations closed over a four week period is broadly the same, but by all other measures things are significantly better under Boris. That there were over a million more ‘lost customer hours’ every four weeks under Mayor Ken is frankly staggering.
Ken’s supporters have always enjoyed rabidly tweeting #GetAGripBoris!! every time a tube runs a minute late, but the actual stats clearly show that Boris has a far better grip on the Tube than Ken ever did. With his fares pledge dismissed, and these stats showing how much better things are under Boris, it seems that transport might not be the easy vote-winner that Ken had been hoping for…
It’s hard not to be flattered by the attention Ken Livingstone’s official campaign team have given me today. They’ve set up a Twitter account – wittily called Boris Johns-Hen (geddit?) – the central premise of which is that Boris should attend debates whenever Ken requests one. In what is an interesting tactic, virtually its sole actions thus far have involved spamming me with tweets (just the 21 times so far today).
Bear in mind that this stuff is officially endorsed by Ken Livingstone himself…
I ignored them initially because I have a busy job (something which I imagine the intern who’s been given the task of tweeting at me for the next hundred days can only dream of). And then I ignored them because the longer I went without replying, the more flustered they became, climaxing with some frankly sublime hyperbole…
Ah yes, of course, that parallel universe in which not chatting to a hen with barely any followers on Twitter shatters your credibility. Anyway, here are some points which Ken Livingstone and his team might like to reflect on:
1) Ken’s pledge to cut fares has been proven to be completely unfunded, as confirmed by both Brian Paddick and Channel 4′s FactCheck. It’s a dead policy. The request by Ken to “debate it” is nothing but publicity-seeking. Similarly, if Ken said he could build two million new homes, and pay for them with nothing but Venezuelan cocoa beans, Boris would rightly ignore any loony request to debate it.
2) There will be loads of mayoral debates between now and May. To suggest that Boris will not defend his policies, just because he hasn’t agreed to Ken’s specific request, is clearly absurd.
3) Boris is Mayor of London. He’s running the city, ensuring Londoners get value for money, securing government investment, ensuring the build-up to the Olympics is as smooth as possible. If he ran off for a debate every time Ken called, he would get nothing else done. And as much as Ken’s supporters like to portray Boris as lazy or “part-time”, even his biographer Sonia Purnell – herself often contemptuous towards Boris – admits that he’s a “workaholic”.
4) Boris explains and defends his actions all the time. Just today, he spent over two hours being quizzed by the London Assembly on his proposed 2012/13 GLA budget. The suggestion that Boris is in some way not accountable is not only ridiculous, but also an offence to the good work performed by the London Assembly.
5) Boris has been a far more accessible mayor than Ken ever was. Remember those stats back in the autumn which showed Boris had visited almost every borough in London more in three and a half years than Mr Livingstone did in his eight years? Remember Mayor Ken visiting Bexley just once in eight years? Remember Ken visiting Cuba more often than he visited Hillingdon during his eight years as mayor? He, not Boris, was the mayor who hid away in City Hall.
6) Ken’s debate record as mayor was hardly shining. Remember the time, just before the 2008 election, when he turned up to a BBC Asian Network debate half an hour late because he’d decided to have a lengthy breakfast?
7) It’s interesting that when Boris hasn’t been able to attend a debate (because, you know, he’s been doing his job) Ken has often withdrawn from the debate too. It suggests that he’s far less interested in explaining his policies to the London electorate and far more interested in slagging Boris off.
8) Sometimes when Ken withdraws from a debate, it all goes horribly wrong. Remember when he sent Val Shawcross to represent him at the Limmud Jewish Conference? She went completely off-message and refused to defend Ken for welcoming Yusuf al-Qaradawi to City Hall. Even as Ken’s running-mate, she couldn’t support his decision to associate with someone who defends Palestinian suicide-bombers, condones wife-beating, favours female genital mutilation, and advocates the persecution of Jews and homosexuals.
You could say Ken ended up with egg on his face. Cock-ed up, even. And as for this new Twitter account…well, it’s a pretty poultry effort, isn’t it?
I always enjoy receiving emails from Ken Livingstone’s campaign team. They’ve ranged from the sublime – “Attend a dinner with Ken and special guest Ed Miliband for just £1,000 a table!” (which was followed up by a second email, a few weeks later, that could be loosely paraphrased as “Erm, does *anyone* want to come to this dinner?”) – to the ridiculous – ”Donate money to help us colour in a chicken!”. The latest one was from Ken himself, and claimed excitedly that various events will be taking place this week to mark the fact that Thursday “26th of January marks 100 days to go” until the election…
The link from the email takes us to a page on his campaign site where it’s declared that tomorrow, 25th January, marks 100 days to go…
So which is right? Erm, neither. The ’100 days to go’ milestone is actually today, 24th January. Tomorrow and Thursday mark the somewhat less noteworthy ’99 days to go’ and ’98 days to go’ milestones. We know Ken’s not too strong on figures (see his unaffordable fares pledge for further evidence), but it would be interesting to know which of the two possible conclusions is correct – either Ken can’t count or he believes the election is on one of Friday 4th or Saturday 5th May…
Someone declaring Ken Livingstone to be “divisive” isn’t hugely newsworthy. In fact, as far as statements of the obvious go, it’s on a par with “Gordon Brown overspent”. What is newsworthy is when the person talking about Ken is a Labour frontbencher. HuffPost UK reports…
Ken Livingstone’s support for an alleged Islamist extremist-backed candidate and his “divisive” approach to politics has undermined his support on the Labour frontbench, HuffPost UK can disclose.
In an interview with this site, Shadow minister Rushnara Ali says that following Livingstone’s decision to campaign for independent candidate Lutfur Rahman as the elected mayor of Tower Hamlets, she and activists would withdraw her support from Livingstone if he “behaves the way he did previously.”
Ali, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, is considered a rising star in the Labour party. She said Livingstone backing Rahman a year ago was “completely unacceptable” and he should “know better”.
Rahman, who was de-selected as Labour’s candidate for the mayor of Tower Hamlets following accusations about his links to a fundamentalist Islam group, stood and won as an independent in 2010 - with support from Ken Livingstone, who had just been selected as Labour’s mayoral candidate, beating out Oona King for the role.
Rushanara Ali tells Huffpost UK: “The entire national executive and the Labour party, nobody was happy about his behaviour. He should know better. He is a leading member of the Labour party with a high profile, and coming into my constituency and the borough of Tower Hamlets and playing divisive politics, essentially not backing-up your party at a very difficult time, was a low point in his recent political activity.”
She said while she was currently campaigning for Livingstone, “that support is of course conditional. If he behaves the way he did previously, in the last executive mayoral election where he couldn’t even support his own party’s candidate, then there will be plenty of people on the ground that will not feel motivated to campaign for him.”
Strong words, just 15 weeks before the election, which reveal the half-heartedness with which many Labour supporters are campaigning for Ken. When so many even in his own party have doubts about him, it’s hard to see how he’ll successfully persuade moderate floating voters to back him.