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.
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.
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.
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.