Guest Blog: The third of May will be a decisive day

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Image © Matt Hobbs

Tom Vine

The week did not begin well for the mayoral contest. After a debate on radio channel LBC, Boris distastefully called Ken Livingstone a “f***ing liar” after Livingstone accused him of using similar tax arrangements as have been causing much controversy over Livingstone’s candidacy. Livingstone was quoted afterwards saying he and Boris are in “exactly the same situation” concerning their earnings.

Yet, what is frightening about this whole situation is not the fact that these men are choosing to pay corporation tax on their earnings over income tax but that our current Mayor of London feels he has the right to call Livingstone, let alone anyone, a “f***ing liar.” What’s also coincidentally convenient for Boris is the way in which the contest has been transformed into criticising Livingstone over taxation on his earnings. Admittedly, I felt as though Livingstone had, in a way, betrayed the left. But as I began to doubt the security of my Ken Livingstone vote, I realised how puny this issue is compared to what really matters for Londoners: housing, crime levels and the amount it costs you to get to school or work each day.

These are the very issues the mayoral candidates (of which a full list can be found here) have been debating for the past few weeks in an attempt to win our votes. These are issues which effect us Londoners directly. Knowledge of Ken and Boris’ tax arrangements isn’t going to reduce my tube or bus fares, so why should I care?

So, on to what really matters. In sum, here is what the main four candidates are campaigning on:

Boris Johnson:

– I’m not joking when I say that Boris is relying on pure comedic value to win votes in May. I’ve encountered countless amounts of people who “absolutely love” Johnson; “he’s such a character!” they claim.

– On a more serious note, Johnson champions his record on crime, claiming overall crime levels have fallen 11% (although Livingstone claims 4%) in the last four years.

– The Olympics (albeit secured under a Labour government).

– Most importantly, his 9 point plan can be found here. In this, he promises to cut council tax, “putting £445 back in your pocket,” and to create 200,000 new jobs over the next four years.

Ken Livingstone:

– Experience is key to Livingstone’s campaign. He was previously Mayor from 2000-2008.

– Ken’s Fare Deal is the highlight of his campaign. Promises to reduce fares by 7% this year, and freeze fares through 2013. Oyster bus fares will be reduced by 15p to £1.20, and fares will not rise from 2014.

– The rest of his pledges include a promise to reverse Johnson’s cut of 1,700 police officers and a re-introduction of the Education Maintenance Allowance.

Brian Paddick:

– Policing is an important policy area to Paddick. Specifically, he believes more officers on the streets will help to reduce crime levels.

– Ending the stopping and searching of innocent citizens. Any officers who do so will have the right to stop and search taken away.

– Increasing the number of available housing through a house-building programme.

Jenny Jones:

– A member of the Assembly (who effectively hold the Mayor to account).

– Obviously, coming from the Green Party, she promises to increase the number of, and improve green spaces in London.

– Rather than increase the number of police, she believes trust must be restored in the police, “especially amongst the young.”

– Similar to the other candidates, she pledges to cut fares and reduce traffic in an attempt to encourage more people to use public transport.

Who to choose?

Out of these campaigns, those of Jenny Jones and Ken Livingstone seem most promising. Jones is right to encourage the use of public transport, attempting to increase trust levels in the police and is also right in her promise to create more green spaces in London – it’s grey enough as it is.

Livingstone is also following the right line in his fight to reduce fares on public transport. Many in London simply cannot afford to use public transport regularly. I myself (living on a student loan) find that I am too regularly forced to top up my Oyster card. Also, a re-introduction of the Education Maintenance Allowance is just what students in London need. As mentioned, Oyster fares are rising too quickly, and a weekly payment for students would help cover this and any extra expenditure (which, admittedly, probably won’t be on books).

Seeing as they are the Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates, I am not so keen on Johnson and Paddick. It seemed fitting, then, that in a debate on the BBC’s Newsnight on the 4th April between the four main candidates mentioned above, Paddick seemed as though he was sucking up to the current Mayor. Perhaps he realises how popular Boris is? Perhaps he, like the crazy Conservative, is a tactician.

What worried me about all three male candidates, however, was their commitedness to simply increasing police numbers. If their aim is to reduce crime levels, increasing the number of bobbies on the beat, in my opinion, will serve to increase tensions between the younger generation and these police officers. In amongst Paddick and Johnson’s intent on this increase in police numbers during the BBC debate, Jones made a fantastic point, saying “there is a general obsession with the numbers of police, which I think is completely wrong,” and that “forms should follow function so we know what these police officers are doing”. Of course, Boris “disagreed vehemently” with this view.

As 3rd May approaches, the contest is slowly hotting up. It is evident from their clash at the LBC studios that the hatred between Boris and Ken remains as high as has ever been. But Paddick and Jones are not to be ignored. Jones, specifically, has much to offer to us Londoners.

Boris, however, has nothing to offer. Fares are on the up. Tensions are rising (as was shown by the riots last August). This is why I will urge all the Londoners I know to vote for Ken Livingstone and Jenny Jones. They have so much more to offer for us, and will most definitely make London a better place.

If they don’t take your fancy, just don’t vote for Boris Johnson. Please, PLEASE don’t.

This article was originally posted here on The Left Way Forward.

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