Who should be the next Mayor of London?

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For Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingstone is standing to be Mayor of London in order to use his good judgement and experience to help guide London through difficult economic times. Ken was born in Streatham in 1945, and attended Tulse Hill Comprehensive School as a youngster. From 1987 to 2000, he was the MP for Brent East, before being elected as Mayor of London and serving eight years in that office. An interesting (or not) factoid about Ken is that there is a coffee shop in India named after him.

During his tenure as Mayor, Ken achieved an excellent record on public transport in the capital. The bus service was significantly revived, with greater numbers of more regular services without fairs increasing any more than the rate of inflation. The introduction of the congestion charge, although not without controversy, succeeded in reducing traffic in the affected areas by 20% and collected more revenue to fund improvements in public transport. All this resulted in London being the only major city in the world to see a shift away from car use.

Other areas where Ken had considerable success include his work in ensuring that London won the right to host the 2012 Olympics later this year. His commitment to London was further highlighted when after the tragic bombings of 7/7, he returned to the capital immediately to help take charge of the situation. This stands in stark contrast to Boris Johnson’s response to the August riots, continuing his holiday for days until political pressure forced him to return

Equality has always been an important issue for Ken and his record demonstrates this. Racist attacks fell by 35% during Ken’s time as Mayor, brought about in part because of his work towards healing racial divisions, such as reviving the free Anti-Racism Music Festival, and his emotional apology for London’s role in the transatlantic slave trade. In 2001, he established Britain’s first register for same-sex couples in London, an important step towards the 2004 Civil Partnerships Act.

Ken has an ambitious programme for London in this election. Top of his agenda is to help struggling families with the cost of transport around the capital. In the months after the election, he would use the large surplus in the Transport department’s budget to cut fares by 7%, freeze them in 2013, and after that allow no above-inflation increases in the price for at least the next four years; under Boris, fares have increased by more than 50% in the same time period. He would also help younger Londoners by restoring the Educational Maintenance Allowance of up to £30, which benefitted some of the poorest children in the country and allowed them to continue on at school until the age of 18. This would be paid for by bringing together existing funds in universities, colleges and local authorities. Unlike Boris, Ken also understands the struggle brought about by the rapidly increasing cost of childcare. Using a system of interest-free upfront loans of up to £1,000 for all lower paid households with young children will assist with the immediate costs of childcare.

The current Conservative-led government has introduced some of the most draconian cuts in history and Ken is committed to fighting against those. Foremost, Ken is committed to reversing the cut of 1,700 front-line police officers under Boris. He will also step up the insulation of homes project in London that has been neglected by cuts in its budget, first by prioritising older people’s home so to prevent the high numbers of pensioners living in fuel poverty in London. Also on energy costs, Ken will establish the first ever London-wide Energy Cooperative, allowing customers to purchase on the whole sale markets, giving them an alternative to the large energy companies that have been ripping customers off. All this will amount to a fairer London that invests in the future and helps the poorest members of the community, who have been hit so hard by an economic situation they did nothing to create.

A final word on Ken’s alleged tax avoidance. Boris has attempted to make significant political capital over this issue but it is clear that the story is nothing but inaccurate. Ken has always paid full income tax on his own earnings, whereas the money he uses to employ other individuals is taxed at the corporation tax level, the same as every employer in Britain. This is an attempted distraction from Boris personally benefitting from the forthcoming cut in the top rate of tax. Boris recently claimed grandly that he was proud to pay income tax, perhaps because as the comedian Andy Hamilton noted, in the sort of company he keeps, that is a badge of honour rather than a legal requirement. The truth is that London is, and always has been, ‘better off with Ken’.

For Boris Johnson

If you ask Londoners what they love about their city, most will have the same answer: its diversity. Those who choose to live in London, with its noise, pollution, and crime, do so because they love the fact that you can meet people from all over the world, and experience the culture and cuisine of countless other nations. When you live in London, you manage to get a sense of what it is to live in a global society.

What attracts these cultures to London? The wealth of opportunities it offers. And, as unpopular as this may sound right now, these opportunities arise in a large part from London’s financial services industry. I worry a lot about the City’s current unpopularity for this very reason. Around 640 000 jobs in London are based around financial services, and countless others (for example, hospitality and retail) depend indirectly on the sector. If popular distaste for financial services gets its way, the very things that make London great – its culture, its wealth, and its opportunities – will dry up.

Boris Johnson is the only candidate for Mayor of London who truly understands this fact. In 2009, at the height of public anger at the financial services industry, he became the City of London’s knight in shining armour: facing a public backlash, he took it upon himself to lobby EU officials against regulations that could have destroyed London’s international competitiveness. By doing this, he helped prevent Londoners suffering from an exodus of talent, wealth and opportunity.

Don’t, however, take this to mean he’s just another Tory out protecting the interests of the rich. As far as Tories go, Boris is more Zac Goldsmith than Jacob Rees-Mogg. He frequently challenges Tory party policy and works in all Londoners’ interests, rather than in the interests of his political career. He supports the London Living Wage campaign, which seeks to increase the wages of the lowest paid so the full time employed can afford to support themselves without recourse to public benefits. He has a clear understanding of the social and economic benefits of green policies, and actively works for a greener London. Unlike noisy socialists, however, he is subtle: rather than setting up numerous quangos that leech off the public purse, he cuts carbon emissions by helping homes become more energy efficient, helping Londoners save on their energy bills as well.

One of Boris’ main aims is to increase the amount of money Londoners have in their pocket. He has frozen City Hall’s share of council tax for three years and is cutting it this year. He funds this by the long process of cutting all the waste that previously surrounded City Hall. He actually recognises that public money is not free money, and respects that it comes from people who have worked hard for their income.

Despite tax freezes, he has secured some amazing upgrades for the London Underground. Secretly, I have to admit that I find Ken Livingstone’s proposed 7% cut in public transport fares tempting, and if I thought he had even the remotest intention of fulfilling that pledge I might actually take him seriously (though I would still have to work out the puzzling dissociation between his public approval of socialism and private dislike of paying tax). The truth is, though, London’s Underground is the largest and the oldest of its like in the world. It costs a lot of money to maintain. Realistically, if fares were cut and the current level of investment maintained, we would probably see an increase in taxes to fill this funding gap. And if there’s anything worse than paying high fares for the tube, it’s paying high taxes for the tube.

All the candidates for Mayor have put crime and police numbers at the forefront of their policies. These are important when all too often you read about the new tragedy of a young person killed or maimed. But I can’t help but think that increasing police only patches the problem, rather than fixing it at its source. London is an exceptionally diverse city, with a vast range of incomes and cultures. To reduce crime, we need to decrease divisiveness. Boris focusses on what brings us together, rather than what sets us apart, and gains broad cross-community support as a result. From the middle class outer Londoners, to the concentrated inner-London ethnic communities, and the SW1 super-wealthy elite, Boris is a mayor for all of London.

Diversity is London’s strength. To make sure it remains an integral part of London’s future, I’m backing Boris.

For Brian Paddick

2012 sees The Olympics coming to London for the first time; it also coincides with the Mayoral elections, making the battle for the position of London Mayor even more exciting and intense. Having been actively involved with both the Labour and Conservative parties from a young age, I still truly believe that Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London is comparatively and even in his own right, the most competent man for the job.

Boris Johnson, the current and hopefully outgoing London Mayor elected in 2008, promised to ‘stop talking and start delivering on public transport’, and delivered he did… only it was to the detriment of Londoners! The cost of procuring his ‘new bus’ came in at an unjustifiable £1.4 million per bus (With an average of 62 seats per double-decker bus, that’s £22,580 a seat!). As a Londoner, who very often has to take out a loan to top up my Oyster Card, I have to question why someone who is meant to be representing me spends £1.4 million on a single bus whilst raising bus fares by 50%! However, fear not as it’s not all doom, debt and gloom. Paddick’s transport policies can only be described as a beacon of hope for Londoners, especially those who commute around the capital on a daily basis. He proposes a ‘one hour bus ticket’ which will allow passengers to hop on and off different busses, whilst only paying one fare. This is an idea which has already proven popular and successful in Paris, Brussels and Rome. Clearly we’re lagging behind, but with a Liberal Democrat Mayor we can catch up with other European cities.

In addition, Paddick promises discounted fares for people who travel before 7.30am. Needless to say how much it will help some of the more financially worse off Londoners, it will rapidly reduce the number of passengers on peak services during the morning rush. These well thought out and considerate policies serve to highlight just how passionate Paddick is about making fares fairer so that all Londoners can afford to use public transport. That’s what we need in a Mayor; not high-profile members of the professional and political elite, but someone with passion and insight into everyday life.

Johnson also promised to ‘get a grip on crime’ and claims to have done so during his four years as London Mayor. Perhaps he is alluding to his decision to cut 1,700 police officers in a city where crime is incessantly rising. Not anyone’s definition of dealing effectively with crime. It is therefore not surprising that knife crime has risen every year under him, as have other prevalent crimes committed in London, such as rape, residential burglary and robbery.

Whilst Livingstone merely wants to reverse the police officer cuts, and Johnson promises to reinstate only 1,000 of the officers he previously cut, Paddick, yet again shines through as the most grounded and experienced candidate who not only presses home the importance of having a larger police force than is current, but he offers a more active approach by highlighting exactly how he plans to tackle crime. What the other two main candidates tragically fail to understand is that simply having more police officers does not help to effectively tackle issues such as prejudiced ‘Stop and Searches’: a growing concern for the people of London, especially the younger generation. If anything an increased force would only serve to exacerbate the problem. Paddick will ensure that police power is channelled to focus on ‘real criminals’ instead of targeting innocent people; a policy that will no doubt help towards rebuilding trust in broken communities.

He also fervently promises to hold delinquents more accountable for the damage they cause, by ensuring that they will actively repair any damage they cause, championing this policy with the catchy slogan: ‘You Break It. You Fix It.’. There is no denying that this is definitely a policy Londoners could have benefited from during and immediately after the London Riots; we need a Mayor with foresight, not one making policies based on hindsight.

Boris may have the banter (albeit rehearsed), but we desperately need a candidate who is not only serious about politics, but one who can deliver. Whilst Paddick is undeniably less popular than the other two main candidates, his ability to inspire and lead is by no means untried. From having served for thirty years in the London Metropolitan Police as a constable and subsequently Deputy Assistant Commissioner, to being the only candidate with tangible policies and realistic goals, Brian Paddick is the refreshing candidate we need to run London on our behalf. He is a candidate who sees the importance of directly consulting Londoners on their priorities and one who is more in touch with the average Londoner than any of the other candidates.

The London Mayoral Election will be held on Thursday 3rd May 2012. If you would like to argue for a candidate that hasn’t be represented here please email comment@yorkvision.co.uk.

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