Saturday, 5 April 2008

Ken vs Boris, part 94

I am often a little slow catching up with who has said what. I've just come upon a piece from several days ago by David Aaronovitch called It's Horrid Ken v Chaotic Boris.

Aaronovitch -- no lefty he, these many years -- says he thought Ken Livingstone was going to be a lousy Mayor, and now admits he was entirely wrong. (I remember that Polly Toynbee went through exactly the same mea culpa.)

But it didn't happen. Instead we got the congestion charge, the most successful and courageous attempt to turn back the inevitable gridlock to which the city was condemned. London managed what Edinburgh and everywhere else flunked, and it was Ken who made it happen. The mayor got Londoners back on buses, Tube and bicycles at the expense of the cars that were killing the capital. Ken also helped to win London the Olympics, one of the most important and sought-after honours that any city can attain. Far from alienating the bankers and industrialists, Ken wooed them when necessary. Ken, wrong on all the things that don't matter in a London mayor, has been right on almost all the things that do.
Of Boris Johnson, Aaronovitch writes:

... a commitment to "rephase traffic lights", which is code for giving pedestrians even less time to cross the road, and motorists even more. This is almost the exact opposite of what we need to do, and might best be described as a uniquely anti-green and anti-child measure.
He goes on to point out that Johnson is completely unreliable:

There is hardly a senior soul in this business who hasn't turned up to an evening with Boris, to discover that it is an evening with anyone but. "I'm sorry," says the chair, anticipating the boos of disappointment, "but Boris Johnson is unable to be with us," followed by some lie.

The man is chaotic. The notion that a Boris administration will, as his website promises every few lines, subject London's finances and procedures to the most rigorous of scrutinies, is beyond parody.

Meanwhile, Neil Harding reminded us yesterday, in case we have forgotten, of a whole string of reasons why you have to vote for Ken if you want a greener London, better transport, affordable housing, etc., and pointed out that, on the basis of opinion poll evidence:

... if this election were being fought on the issues Ken would win easily. Most Londoners think Ken has done a good job as Mayor, only the Evening Standard smears and lies can explain why Ken is not ahead of bumbling Boris.
Harding returns to the fray today with a piece called True 'liberals' Will Vote For 'liberal' Policies Not Personalities, pointing out that:

Livingstone of course has built a coalition far wider than new Labour, his competence, vision and political bravery have won voters from Tory, Lib Dem, Green, trade unionist, muslim and other ethnic and minority backgrounds, but his 'brand' has been severely damaged by unfounded accusations from a London press that would shame North Korea in its levels of bias.
Ken Livingstone, Harding reminds us, has also garnered support from the gay movement, the anti-war movement, and anti-racism groups, not with vague gestures but through actual concrete policy measures.

Finally he draws our attention to a fascinating site called VoteMatch where you can take a survey that shows which candidates are closest to your own views. My results came out with Livingstone the clear favourite for my set of views, and I think the message is that you may not like Ken personally but you need to ignore that, and make a rational judgement about his actual policies vis-a-vis those of the other candidates.

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