The GLA election period finally kicked off proper on Tuesday [18th March] with the formal launch of the Mayor’s re-election campaign at the Royal Festival Hall. As well as describing London’s achievements over the past eight years, Ken Livingstone set out new pledges for transport, housing, crime, the environment and community relations over the next four years. He also said the spirit of London was shown in the events of July 2005 when we won the Olympic Games bid, showing London’s ambition, youth and diversity. And we showed the world how to tackle with pride our worst moments, such as the way the city responded to the terrorist atrocity of 7th July 2005.
London’s opportunities were now greater than ever but he warned that the election would highlight clear choices for Londoners: this election is not Celebrity Big Brother; its about the most serious issues and the future of our city. On Crossrail, the biggest transport scheme in Europe, Ken Livingstone noted that it could transform London’s transport for the better or destroy the finances of the City for many years. However Boris Johnson could not even be bothered to vote on it in Parliament! The Tube refurbishment and the handling of the Metronet contracts can also transform our city’s biggest transport asset – but Boris’s Transport manifesto doesn’t mention what his plans for the Tube were going to be. On affordable homes for Londoners, we have seen the doubling of house building in London with an affordable element in the past 8 years, achieved through the 50 per cent policy which Boris Johnson wants to abolish. On crime and policing, Johnson calls for ‘big ticket savings’ in the Police budget – this when crime has been cut every year for the past five years. This has only been achieved because hard decisions have been taken to pay for increased police numbers. On good community relations we have seen racists attacks down by a half when in other regions in the country they are up. In contrast, Boris Johnson uses right wing dog whistle politics to attack “political correctness”. On road safety, he clearly does not like pedestrians as he wants to re-phase traffic lights to supposedly get traffic flowing. He recently told a Radio show that pedestrians ‘are the most dangerous thing on the roads’. And finally nothing shows the differences between Ken and Boris more than their stand on the environment. Boris Johnson’s anti-green stance led him to oppose the proposal to introduce a £25 charge on gas guzzlers.
Finally, Ken Livingstone quiped that ‘it was said by Dr Samuel Johnson in the 18th century that when you are tired of London you leave for Henley’. Lets certainly hope so for Boris Johnson on the 1st of May.