Opinion: London Mayoral hustings, Round 2

Having been to the London Mayoral hustings last week in Wimbledon (and written about it for LDV) I thought it would be interesting to go to the official hustings last night in central London to see how (or if) the candidates had changed. I don’t know if it was the different audience or the extra week and taking on board the various comment people made but all four candidates made better speeches and all seemed more confident of why they wanted to represent us.

By far the most improved was Lembit Opik. I could see why he has had such a positive image in the past and his jokes went down far better than previously. He (sort of) addressed the issue of why he lost Montgomery, saying his celebrity status hadn’t helped but he thought it would be a plus in London. His policies are still frustratingly short on detail (on the 24 hour tube why not point out that we need to study how it is done in New York?) but the speech was delivered with far more brio, charm and energy. There was though an ‘elephant in the room’ with Lembit which he did not cover. Having said on Twitter and in the Welsh press that his manifesto contains a section on why he lost which he has disowned he should have addressed how it came to be there. It also seems an ethical lapse that he has not used one of the emails all candidates are allowed to tell members that what he has sent them is not true.

Brian Haley is a puzzle. He perfectly reasonably stated that he would be different to the other candidates (i.e. not a white man) but seems very weak on policy and not very clear why he is standing.

You can get away with making vague, expensive-sounding promises in a hustings but I keep thinking of him being interviewed by a tough TV presenter or debating with Ken or Boris and I think he would fall apart. Brian apologized (unprompted) that sometimes he is not very speedy to reply to emails as he has a family and a full-time job but this inevitably raises the question of how much time he would be able to spend if he was our candidate.

Oddest of all Brian missed the very thing that had made his speech last week come alive which was his passionate denunciation of Labour (from the inside). He did a bit of this in answer to a question but I wonder about the political skills of someone who doesn’t realize how well that would have gone down with this audience. I continue to think Brian has the potential to be a good Liberal Democrat candidate but not yet.

Mike Tuffrey’s speech was just all-round better. Not by any means brilliant but good enough and once again his great knowledge of policy came though. I particularly admired an answer that Mike gave on a question of whether he thought Kettling was liberal. He said it wasn’t liberal but in some circumstance it might be necessary. He was the first person to answer this question and I feel it was a brave answer which he knew would not go down well in the room. Mike also talked about the Coalition and said that while he supported it he would not hesitate to stand up for London when he disagreed with policies like the housing benefit cap.

Brian Paddick delivered what was essentially a better version of last week’s speech. He has his clear points: his running of an integrated campaign with the Assembly candidates, his knowledge of London and his media profile and he stuck to them. He addressed the negatives from his last campaign and what he has learned since (his comment that he would now be smiling a lot more was interesting as I had just been hearing from one of last time’s GLA candidates how this was been a real problem in 2008). He also said that that he supported kettling in certain circumstances (he pointed out on the TUC march it was the masked anarchists who should have been kettled not the innocent marchers). When asked if there were any Lib Dem policies he disagreed with he certainly surprised me by saying our policies on cannabis, that with the much stronger genetically modified versions now available and our better understanding of the link with schizophrenia we need to reconsider our policies.

One more general point which came out from the hustings was the degree to which the candidates are running good campaigns. Only two of them (Tuffrey and Paddick) had supporters handing out leaflets at the hustings. All the candidates are allowed (as well as their election address sent out with ballot papers) to send out one mailshot and 3 emails. So far only Tuffrey has used this with his mailshot arriving just after the ballot paper and his email a few days later. Given that those people who are going to vote usually complete their ballot papers just after they get them (and that we are now in holiday season) it seems extraordinary that the other three still haven’t sent anything out. A similar pattern can be seen online, Tuffrey having by far the best website, Paddick and Opik OK ones and Brian Haley having no website at all.

Having heard the candidates again I am leaning towards giving Mike Tuffrey my first preference. He knows his stuff, he has a good connection with the London activist base who will be crucial to linking the mayoral and Assembly elections and he will have a clear differentiation from Ken and Boris. He is also running by far the best campaign with an excellent degree of planning and ability to mobilise his supporters to help him.

I am still impressed with Brian Paddick though. What a pity that London isn’t having an election for Police Commissioner – he would be the ideal candidate!

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11 Comments

  • Simon McGrath 31st Jul '11 - 5:14pm

    Update – a leaflet from Brian Paddick arrived on Saturday.

  • Interesting summary of where the campaigns are at, thanks Simon!

    Difficult choice between Mike Tuffrey and Brian Paddick. Both have their strengths and a few days ago I’d have gone for Brian but am now wondering if Mike wouldn’t be a better choice. Tbh, I think the choice is really between two different types of campaign – I think Brian would be better at challenging for the Mayoralty (? or is it Mayorship?) while Mike would be better at maximising our GLA vote.

    Having said that, Brian comments about what he’s learnt from last time indicate that he now recognises the importance of a joined up campaign, so he’s probably not that far behind any more Mike in this respect.

    But likewise Mike is also becoming more and more personally impressive so I don’t think he’s far behind Brian in his ability to take on Boris and Ken.

  • paul barker 31st Jul '11 - 8:47pm

    Can I just repeat my comment that I found all 4 impressive in different ways & The Party should find some way to use the 3 who dont win. There will be Elections for The Senate in 2015 & we could use a lot more Libdems in The HoL right now. We are supposed to have 23% of The Lords & we dont have even half that.

  • Overground rail has double tracking on many routes. If candidates want to offer better late night transport, why not offer us a 24 hour service on these routes, given that it would be possible!!

    Starting in the East and working clockwise suggests that we could run trains 24/7 to at least the following stations
    Hither Green and Orpington
    Croydon and Purley
    Wandsworth, Balham and Streatham Common
    Clapham Jn, Wimbledon and Surbiton
    Putney and Barnes
    Ealing, Southall and Hayes
    Wembley Central
    Kentish Town, West Hampstead, and Hendon
    Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace
    Hackney Downs, Stratford and Ilford

    (in some cases I have omitted intermediate stops).

    Source: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0954986652/?tag=libdemvoice-21

    I have no idea how much it would cost to run a service every 15 or 30 mins on these routes, but it might be worth exploring.

  • “There will be Elections for The Senate in 2015”

    Do you really think so?

  • Simon McGrath 1st Aug '11 - 10:34pm

    Thanks for the comments. You have illustrated my point very well – that lembit needs to be engaging in just these sort of dicussions about the Tube instead of his simple mantra that he will hold a referendum on it.

    @ Bolivia – interested to hear how it goes on Wednesday – why not write a piece for LDV!

  • Bolivia – noise is an issue (as you say, for outer London tubes too), which is why I said we should investigate it, not do it. If we were going to do it the sensible thing would probably to roll it out – that is, add a 15 min or 30 min service until 1am, then 2am if that is popular, then 3am, etc. The Oxford Tube (Oxford-London coach) runs 24/7, suggesting demand for night-time travel.

    (Some) trains have an advantage over tubes or buses – toilets, and guards. And you are not on them for as long, and they are bigger, so you can spread out a bit more. So it would be more pleasant than the night bus. But more expensive to operate…

    Do raise the issue at the Hackney husts!

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