Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Candidates distance themselves from parties

It seems that the three candidates from the mainstream parties in the London Mayoral elections all find being part of the establishment something of a vote loser.

In their respective launches Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone forgot to mention that they were candidates of the Conservative and Labour Parties and stuck to their images as rebel rebels - whilst LibDem candidate Brian Paddick hoped to compensate for his almost complete lack of profile or charisma by painting himself "the man to take on the establishment" - conveniently forgetting he was a senior officer in Scotland Yard and therefore, like the two front runners, is actually part of the establishment they hope to distance themselves from.

Livingstone has said that the London elections should be more than a Big Brother contest but about politics and competence - he's right - but it doesn't explain why his campaign focuses entirely on him, not the party that gives him their support. Perhaps it's because not that long ago that party did everything it could to stop him being Mayor and is at a twenty year low in the polls due to the accumulation of unpopular policy after unpopular policy. I'd try to distance myself from that too.

Johnson - who is doing incredibly well in the polls - is playing his strong suit of the bumbling idiot too thick and too posh to know what the line of his party is, let alone adhere to it. It's utterly depressing that he leads the polls when he goes out of his way to show what a fucking awful Mayor he'd be. If it's any consolation if he does win it will be a massive blow to Cameron's hopes of winning the next general election as he'll have to deal with gaff after reactionary diatribe after gaff from one of the most high profile politicians in the land. Sadly, that is not a good enough reason to allow him to get hold of the capital city.

On Monday the Green Party took the decision to back Livingstone for second preference in the Mayoral race - which for Ken is crucial as the Greens will be mobilising tens of thousands who would not have voted otherwise. these votes could be the deciding factor between a Mayor who has taken some courageous environmentally minded decisions and one who is a cavalier buffoon bent on destroying the planet as quickly as possible.

As Green AM Darren Johnson (no relation) says on CiF today "Livingstone is my insurance against Boris Johnson wrecking London's future as a sustainable city. Livingstone is flawed and often wrong, but Johnson looks set to ditch all the initiatives that are making London a cleaner, greener and more affordable place to live."

That doesn't mean being uncritical of Ken, just realistic about the gulf between a Livingstone run London and the dystopian nightmare of Boris-stan. As Darren explains "Despite the Green party's success in working with Ken, he will not be getting my first preference and he doesn't deserve to... he has had far too much of a love-in with city financiers and the massively over-dominant financial services sector of London's economy."

The whole process of the Mayoral elections, where the candidates try to distance themselves from the record of their parties in favour of their winning personalities, serves to de-politicise these elections in a way that we cannot afford to happen. Boris may or may not be a pleasant chap to have tiffin with but the politics that underpins his ambitions are built on inequality, divisiveness and environmental destruction. Whatever Livingstone's faults - and there are plenty to choose from - he is someone who the progressive left can and has been working with constructively. That means he should get your second vote, but use your first to show that support for Livingstone does not mean settling for second best.

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