London elects its Mayor in May. Ken Livingstone is the official Labour candidate. The leadership of that party may have been hi-jacked by scoundrels but it is still the only mass political party in Britain that has any potential whatever to giving a voice to Britain’s organised working class. And Livingstone’s record has been one of measures that have been of some benefit to London’s working class.
The Labour Party machine originally skewed its selection process to pick Yorkshireman Frank Dobson as its choice of candidate for the job. Livingstone quit the party to stand as an independent – though still holding the support of most of London’s Labour Party rank and file. He stood on a policy of opposing Tube privatisation. Though the Government imposed part privatisation of the Tube before handing control of it over to Livingstone, his stance has been more than vindicated in the dire performance and eventual collapse of Metronet, one of the two private companies involved in the part privatisation.
Livingstone has vastly improved the bus services. By and large the congestion charge has worked in lessening the gridlock in central London, though we would argue it weighs more heavily on low income drivers. Leading Green activists and campaigners acknowledge he is one of the very few elected mayors in the world with enough courage to take on the motor and oil industry lobbies in trying to reduce pollution in the capital.
And when it comes to the position of London Mayor, the alternative really is very much worse than Livingstone. Boris Johnson affects the public persona of a posh buffoon but he is really very reactionary and set on removing all barriers to his very rich class friends making as much profit as they can at the expense of ordinary Londoners.
All the advances made by Livingstone would be undone; the Tube would probably be fully privatised; travel concessions for children and the pensioners’ Freedom Pass would be under threat and developers would be allowed to run riot with no planning checks.
But the poll is likely to be a tight-run thing. People considering voting for alternative candidates or not voting at all should be aware that Boris is the only alternative to Ken and that a few votes going elsewhere could make all the difference and help Boris get in. Livingstone is not perfect but don’t wish a nightmare future on London. Save the Mayor, save London.