Lord Toby Harris is a backbench Labour peer; he has been Leader of Haringey Council, Chair of the Labour Group of the LGA, Leader of the Labour Group on the London Assembly, and the first Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority
London elects its Mayor in one week's time. The choice is a simple one. Do Londoners want someone who cares about (and will do something about) the issues that affect them, such as rocketing transport fares, falling police numbers and poor prospects for young people? Or do they want a Mayor who is more pre-occupied with costly vanity projects and using the Mayoralty as a platform to gain the Leadership of the Conservative Party?
The brilliant Labour election broadcast was attacked by the Tories for being “scripted” (since when was an election broadcast not scripted?) and (wrongly) of having used actors. The attacks were typical of a Conservative campaign that has sought to keep away from any proper policy debate or focus on what directly affects Londoners.
Indeed, what is interesting about the Tory campaign is what they do NOT talk about. Their candidate’s manifesto barely mentions the word “Conservative” – relegating it to the published and promoted by small print at the end of the page. But more significant is the failure to mention childcare or child poverty, the different faith communities that make up London, or LGBT Londoners. And black Londoners are only mentioned in the context of crime. The manifesto itself is light on policy and says little about what Boris Johnson would do in a second term in office.
By contrast, Ken Livingstone’s manifesto makes a series of striking pledges that match the concerns of Londoners. Ken has committed to cut fares – saving the average fare-payer £1,000 over four years; crack down on crime by reversing the Tory Mayor’s police cuts; and help reduce rents with non-profit lettings agency for London. The Labour Mayoral campaign promises to provide free home insulation for those in fuel poverty and campaign to force the utility companies to cut heating bills; establish a London-wide Educational Maintenance Allowance of up to £30 per week to help young people stay in education; and support childcare with grants and interest-free loans.
Ken Livingstone has also promised to freeze both the Mayor’s share of Council Tax and the congestion charge for four years and to invest in improving transport services, build new homes and cut pollution.
On 3rd May, Londoners will also be electing twenty-five members of the London Assembly whose role is to hold the Mayor to account and to speak up for the interests of Londoners. At present only eight of the seats on the Assembly are held by Labour (the Tories hold eleven with three LibDems, two Greens and one ex-BNP “other”). With the Assembly being a mix of fourteen constituency seats and eleven more “additional members” elected to achieve proportionality, there is a real prospect of the balance shifting significantly. Labour is hoping to gain Barnet and Camden where the incumbent Tory has made his name by making controversial statements and there are several other constituency seats being targeted.
With just one week to go and the public increasingly focusing on what sort of policies they want from London’s government, there is all to play for.