Race for London Mayor: To vote or Not to Vote, That is The Question?
Don’t switch off. Please, just bear with me for five minutes and read on. The Mayor of London race is strll cold, London has barely looked up from its free newspaper gossip on George Clooney being in town. But we have the right to vote, and the obligation to input our views into how we want to see London over the next few years. We have to vote, and that decision, for whom we are going to vote, is the reason most of us are switching off.
Nobody knows how they are going to vote next week
Nobody really knows how they are going to vote next week. The choices are unappealing, and the Barak Obama v Hillary Clinton debate just looks sexier, and more enticing. All we really know about our candidates is whether they plan to vote for bendy buses.
The truth is, we all need to inject some thought into this process. The candidates may not be inviting, and they may not really deserve much of our time, but the post of the Mayor of London is important. Think how many people know something about New York’s well known Mayor Giulliani?
Ken Livingstone, unattractive but a serious contender
Ken Livingstone is an unattractive vote for many of us. Arrogant and brash, he has waded into hot water over ill-advised comments on many an occasion. He has lied openly and contemptuously about the congestion charge, and probably plenty of other issues. He has ridden rough shot over public consultations, for example over the western extension of the congestion charge. He has now affiliated himself with the Labour party, party of war. He has chosen his advisers with much lack of sensibility and, some may argue, sense. His multicultural benefits are hugely undermined by the open consideration amongst London’s Jewry that there is an anti-semite running their city. The man has done nothing to quell their fears. Stick vividly in my throat as it will, there remains one real reason why Ken will get either my first or my reserve vote next week. He is independent enough to shout out against New Labour. He has spoken out against the Iraq War since the outset, and since the majority of Londoners represent an anti-war vote, it is inconceivable that we could be represented by a politician who clamours in support of more deaths and destruction in Iraq. The war is not over. Thousands remain under fire in Iraq, and life is a daily struggle for the entire population. The Iraq Body Count estimate sthat between 80-90,000 civilian deaths have taken place since 2003. That is about half the population of Kensington and Chelsea borough. It is selfish in the extreme for us to vent our petty concerns over bendy buses and other such trivia, when our government has led us into war, and now relies on the general public indifference to keep us there. Ken, for all his faults, has dared to speak out and continues to speak out. The war must remain on the public agenda, and it is a reason, perhaps the reason to vote in favour of Ken.
The “Face of London”
Then there is another related matter – the face of London. The Mayor has some hand in shaping policies that affect us all, but perhaps more than anything else he is the face of London. Ken represents the best of London, the forgiving tolerant face of London in the wake of the 7/7 atrocities. Ken stood up and united voters. Can you imagine what would happen with a Boris Johnson or a BNP member in power? Anarchy, localised civil war, communities hating each other, blaming each other, deep resentment brewing at every corner. Trite as those multicultural festivals are in Trafalgar Square, they are a welcome addition to London life, showing off this city as truly multicultural, such trademark being its glory, colour and vibrance.
Brian Paddick as the Face of London just gets us nowhere. The Liberal Democrats’ reversal over their Iraq War stance has lost them serious credit as a party, and Brian Paddick (unlike Ken, who has merely attached himself to Labour without any simultaneous hinging upon Labour policy, least of all the war) is attached to the Liberals, or at least does not seek to differentiate himself from their current and disappointing blandness in any way. It is true that he is seeking to distinguish himself on detailed transport policies, which are promising, but his manifesto promises do not go much further than this sole area. As the face of London, Brian Paddick just doesn’t have enough personality and charisma for the job. A vote for Brian Paddick sadly may be a wasted vote.
Finally, one other serious issue should be considered when voting next week. The Environment. Since we live and breathe in this polluted city, the environment should be our 2nd biggest concern after being the “face of London”. We have to consider the polluting effects of vehicle emissions when we think of our own health and that of our children. It means a vote for cheaper and more affordable public transport. It means looking for new sustainable sources of energy, like solar or wind panels. That may be a vote for the Greens, or maybe Ken. The Greens significantly want to re-nationalise the tube. Given the catastrophe of the PPPs, that could yet be the reason I vote for Sian Berry. Especially since she also represents anti-war and the Greens want the UK to pull out of Iraq. But the Greens policy on immigration leaves everything to be desired, indeed it is a right wing disgrace of the first order. Where does that leave one’s vote?
There is one final reason why I may yet give Ken my first preference vote over the Greens or Respect (which exists only as a protest vote, for all the reasons recorded above). He has balls. I may not like them, we may not appreciate them all the time, but he has forged ahead and introduced visionary ideas in London, like the congestion charge (though I personally disagree and disagreed with the western extension), oyster cards and even his dealings with Chavez in the oil exchange programme.
We need someone who can lead London forward, and sadly, though I wish there was another choice, Ken remains the only viable first or second vote.
The Unforgivable Boris
Boris Johnson is an unforgivable vote for the following reasons:
1) His response to any further terrorist atrocity in London would most likely inflame civil relations; because ….
2) He is totally contemptuous of Londoners, foreigners and anyone not like him;
3) He supported the war on Iraq;
4) He has consistently made some of the most outlandish racist comments over the years as a Tory politician and journalist. It is even more offensive that he now suddenly find his Turkish grandfather out of the grave, as though that makes his racism acceptable. The comments he has consistently made about Islam are so vile, and ill-advised as a political spokesman that he will no longer represent London but invite further suicide bombings on London (on Asian Network, he tried to u-turn with a ridiculous comment saying he could “out-ethnic” an Asian presenter…;
5) We know he has apologised for his offensive comments, where he described black children greeting the Queen as “flag-waving piccaninnies”, and he once said that when Tony Blair visited Congo “the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles”. We know he has said they were taken out of context. Really, how can black Londoners be represented by a man who was even capable of such comments? How can white Londoners believe that it is in their best interests to be represented by a man who appears to sour community relations that are the bedrock of a happy London?;
6) He plans to do nothing to “green” london. In fact basically he has no environment policies other than to banish bendy buses;
7) He has indicated that he might reverse the smoking ban in London. How stupid is that? Even many smokers prefer the non-smoking ban;
8) Though Ken has no power to intervene on the tube, he has spoken consistently against the private-public partnership which has left the tube management unaccountable and the rest of us like sardines. Boris is unlikely to go against PPP, and positively likely to favour them, though since he almost never articulates his policies, it is hard to know;
9) What does BJ know about the people of London? He never travels by tube, and the oyster card has been an excellent introduction to London. I doubt he would even know what one looked like since he is so out of touch with ordinary people in London;
10) He sends 3 of his children to private school rather than state schools. Whilst one might accept this as a personal choice for many London parents, a politician needs to be willing to say he suffers like the majority of the population. If he does not know how awful the schools are, who will consider improving them?
11) The BNP have endorsed BJ as their reserve candidate. Isn’t that reason enough not to support him?
12) He doesn’t seem to have any policies other than reversal of the bendy bus policy. Everything else amounts to a soundbite.
Don’t get me wrong, I would rather vote for anyone except Ken, and I may yet vote Sian Berry (Green). Londoners have not been given much choice in this upcoming election, there is no candidate worthy of this amazing city – but a vote for Boris, the reserve candidate of the BNP, is the death of a London we know, love and of which we are proud.
April 22nd 2008,
Also read these:
List of candidates for the Mayor’s election
· Richard Barnbrook, British National Party
· Lindsey German, Left List
· Boris Johnson, Conservative Party
· Sian Berry, Green Party
· Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrats
· Gerard Batten, UK Independence Party
· Alan Craig, Christian Peoples Alliance and Christian Party
· Matt O’Connor, English Democrats
· Ken Livingstone, The Labour Party
· Winston McKenzie, an independent candidate