It’s been heartening to see the national press focus on the contest for London’s mayoralty, but we should not forget that on the same day the political make-up of the London Assembly will also be decided.
If, as we hope, Ken is re-elected on 1 May he will need 9 Assembly Members to vote through his budget, strategies and initiatives. At present he relies on a red/green alliance of seven Labour members and two Greens in the face of Lib Dem/Tory opposition. Without this support in the Assembly, Ken’s annual budget would be blocked and along with it funding for more police, to tackle climate change and to improve public transport.
The role of assembly members, of which 25 will be elected on the 1 May (14 to represent constituencies and 11 by a proportional party list system) is to scrutinise the activities of the Mayor and hold him to account. We will ignore the Assembly elections at our peril. Support for Ken must go hand in hand with support for Labour on the Assembly. This is the only way to guarantee that he will get the support he needs to push through measures to improve the lives of all Londoners. The danger is that an Assembly with a Tory-Lib Dem majority will make life very difficult for the Mayor and block the progressive consensus that has developed in the last eight years.
Finally, and most importantly, it is the Assembly elections which could easily see the BNP elected. At the last GLA elections in 2004, the BNP came within 5,000 votes of getting gaining a seat on the Assembly. That is the equivalent of just a handful of votes in each ward in London. An improved performance this time round would be a disaster for London, undermining our multi-cultural and diverse capital in the lead up to the 2012 Olympics. It is worth remembering that, because of the proportional electoral system, every vote, no matter who it’s for, will increase the number of votes the BNP need to be successful. So use your votes: to stop the BNP and ensure our progressive Mayor can push through his programme, and vote for the Assembly Members and the party who share his values and his vision for our great city.