The London mayoral campaign’s getting interesting

It’s been a big day in London mayoral politics. Tonight’s Channel 4 Dispatches programme, presented by the New Statesman’s Martin Bright, has levelled a number of serious allegations against Ken Livingstone, detailed here in The Guardian.

The most potentially damaging – if true – are that:
– the Mayor’s former senior adviser on Asian issues, Atma Singh, admits that while employed by the Greater London Authority with a salary paid for by taxpayers he and other mayoral advisers raised large sums of money for Ken’s 2004 re-election bid: a clear breach of local government rules barring local authority employees from working on political campaigns during office hours; and
– that many of the Mayor’s senior advisers were appointed not on their own merit, but because they are members of a Trotskyite faction called Socialist Action, plotting to turn London into a “socialist city state”.

Dispatches also examined Ken’s relationship with the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez; questioned the impact today of the congestion charge; and scrutinised Mayoral expenses run up on a trip to India.

So far, Ken’s defence has been weak, brushing aside Dispatches’ allegations by claiming the programme is a hatchet job. If it’d been made by Peter Hitchens fair enough: but Ken’ll have a harder job arguing that Martin Bright of the anti-war Statesman is part of a capitalist / Evening Standard / Channel 4 conspiracy. The Mayor’s lazy, broadbrush response has been of a piece with Ken’s campaign so far: tired, petulant and backward-looking.

Did you see Dispatches? What did you think of the programme?

Other mayoral developments today include:

The Independent columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown declaring for Brian, “a smart and savvy Londoner”. She’s the second major columnist to endorse his candidacy in the last week.

Another left-of-centre commentator, David Hill, has also praised Brian, this time for his commitment to tackle crime in the capital:

“Where crunched numbers are concerned, Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick has come cleanest. It’s what you’d hope for from an ex-policeman – 30 years with the Met before stepping down following a falling out with Sir Ian Blair over the shooting of Charles De Menezes – and he’s got Ken Livingstone bang to rights.”

Finally, a YouGovStone poll for the Evening Standard has shown the challenge and the potential of Brian’s bid to become mayor of London. The survey asked 533 Londoners drawn from the business, culture, education, government, media and voluntary sectors who they would vote for as mayor: Boris Johnson topped the ballot with 44%, followed by Ken with 38%, and Brian trailing with 12%. BUT, crucially:

After the initial vote count, the top two candidates will go on to the second round, with second preference votes of the eliminated candidates being re-allocated if they are for either of the two front runners. Mr Paddick was the most popular second choice, with 37 per cent of respondents prepared to offer him their second vote.

In a head-to-head between Boris and Ken, the mayor is currently ahead. Which means, as Brian himself has pointed out: “The way the voting system works means that only two people stand a chance of winning this election: Ken or me. Every Mayoral election to date has been decided by second preference votes. If it’s Ken and Boris in the run-off, Ken will win. If it’s Ken and me, I will win. If you’ve had enough of Livingstone you have to vote Paddick on 1 May.”

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2 Comments

  • Dispatches seemed to operate on the hope that if enough mud is slung in Ken’s direction, some of it will stick. Which means that the really serious allegations – that his spin-doctors broke electoral law by campaigning for his re-election using public money, that the Mayor’s office is essentially a wing of Socialist Action – got gathered together with less impressive dirt on how much Ken spent on room service and how medicinal his whiskies are. We’ll have to wait and see how much the important stuff is diluted by the less important stuff. (In this, the programme bore a curious resemblance to the Compass pamphlet attacking Boris as a member of the ‘Hard Tory Right’)

    Nice to see the ludicrousness of the Venezuela deal properly dealt with, though – how does socialist Ken justify mis-spending his £10bn so vastly that a third world country is now being asked to prop up the transport system of one of the world’s richest cities?

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