Who do we support for London Mayor?

8:39 am - January 22nd 2008

by Sunny Hundal    

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Given Martin Bright’s documentary on Channel 4 last night (I was out, didn’t get to watch), who should be supported for London Mayor? Ken is still the only left-wing candidate for London. Paddick is somewhat leftist on some issues and Boris Johnson is an annoying buffoon. I’d rather eat my monitor than support the latter. Fellow conspirator Dave Osler’s written this defence of Socialist Action and isn’t a fan of Nick Cohen, saying:

Similarly, unless it can somehow be proven that O’Neill and Woodward are somehow not up to their jobs, then why shouldn’t they be working for the Greater London Authority? Remember, too, that Livingstone was elected as an independent. Labour Party members potentially faced expulsion for taking the Red Ken shilling, so his choice of appointees was limited from the start.

And what if Socialist Action continues to have private meetings in a room above a pub in Islington? Lots of people have private meetings. As a punter, I cannot just barge in on get togethers of the Jockey Club; although I am member of the Labour Party, I have no right to sit in on sessions of the cabinet. Having meetings is what political groups of all stripes do, and cannot be adduced as evidence of undesirable clandestinity.

Cohen – sometimes given to sending me the odd abusive personal email for no reason in particular – asks how the media would react if a Tory mayor of London appointed British National Party supporters to his cabinet.

This point is as offensive as it is plain damn stupid. Whatever one thinks of Trotskyist political prescriptions, revolutionary socialists are politically motivated an entirely noble desire to see an end to exploitation, oppression, poverty, violence, hunger, racism and injustice across the planet.

What say you folks? Is Ken Livingstone guilty enough that the left should no longer support him? Or is he still your default candidate? What did you think of the documentary?

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments

I think the media does tend to forget that we don’t all live in London.

With that in mind, for the most part, I don’t really give a toss who is the next mayor (I didn’t give a toss when they phased out big red buses either, or brought in congestion charges but that didn’t stop the media reporting it around the clock).

But anything that makes Boris look even more stupid and allows him to heap further shame on the Tory party is good.

I think a better description of Paddick would be a muscular liberal..

If you read anything he’s written he’s utterly liberal on the issues while being extremely committed to cutting crime (and understanding that crime is of most concern to the poorest and most vulnerable in society).

Livingstone on the other hand is not only the sort of politician who will say anything to get elected (Broken promises on fares, keeping the routemaster) but a misogynist to boot who promotes homophobes like Qaradawi and authoritarians like Chavez. How on earth anyone liberal could support Ken I don’t understand.

I concur with Rob, while I’m happy to have moved out of London, I had been looking forward to the mayoral campaign. I had the opportunity to meet Brian while down there and was very impressed, definite liberal by instinct and inclination, and given the current political climate, that was enough for me. At some point in the future, it may again become important whether you’re left or right instead of liberal or not, but in the current climate we need a few liberals in power.

I can’t support Ken. Nice bloke in some ways, but an utter disaster in others, and while the points Dave makes about his initial choices of staff are valid (thus making the issue fairly irrlevent) it’s actions that count. Ken opened his presentation on London Talking by saying “if you don’t think London has got better don’t vote for me”. Of COURSE London has got better, it would take a buffoon of Boris proportions to hold the previously non-existent office and not make things better, taking power from Westminster and giving it to London inevitably made for improvements, especially around TFL etc. So essentially Ken’s main platform is “I did the job, I’m not crap”. Brian offers more.

Boris would be a disaster, but Brian is both competent and a real liberal. It becomes a Ken/Brian contest almost by default, if I were there, my first pref would be Brian, 2nd Ken, and I think a bunch of Tories will be voting Brian first as well come the end. It’s going to be interesting to watch, that’s for sure.

I think that in general, Ken continues to have a positive strategy for London; he’s got “sensible-left” policies on key issues, and the backbone to push through policies that are unpopular with the media but which benefit a large majority of normal Londoners, such as the congestion charge. His frank, direct manner in dealing with the political and corporate interests who stand in the way of improved services and life for the city is refreshing.

The devil is in the details, though. While I approve in outline terms of his work with Hugo Chavez (whom people seem happy to demonise on the basis that he might become a dictator at some point, rather than considering the man’s present record) and the benefits it has brought to the people of London, his links with Qaradawi and his unnecessarily robust defence of the man and his odious views are a massive blot on his copybook. It’s one thing to meet with a religious leader whose views you don’t necessarily like – it’s another thing entirely to then defend those views in public. Ken’s ongoing support of Ian Blair at the Met is also extremely worrying, given Blair’s shambolic and dishonest performance over the Jean Charles de Menezes killing.

As such, it’s hard to feel unqualified in my support for Ken, despite voting for him happily in the past. Paddick, on the other hand, seems to be wonderfully liberal, left-wing, realistic, intellectual, honest and robust. He would be a brilliant mayor. Naturally, he hasn’t got a snowball’s chance in hell at the election.

Thankfully, though, the London Mayoral Election runs on the basis of a single transferable vote – so choosing isn’t so much of a problem. I will give Paddick my first vote, as I honestly believe that he would be the best possible mayor for London – and I will give Ken my second preference, which should transfer over in the second count after Paddick is sadly but inevitably eliminated in the first round. The joy of transferable votes, of course, is that I can vote for my preferred candidate without concern that I’m splitting the vote of the Left and letting the odious Boris in through the back door!

My most favourite moment was when the names of socialist action members were shown in a list, highlighting those who were now working for Ken, and Walter Wolfgang’s name appeared. Socialist Action, a very serious group who created many future Mayoral advisors and a party conference heckler.

Boris Johnson is a disappoinment. I thought he would at least make the London Mayoral race more fun, and that way might earn a third preference. As it is he is something lik sixth or seventh preference.

Ken was a great way of reminding Tony Blair that he was not in charge of everything; and has been a pretty effective Mayor. But since he joined the party ranks again, Ken has looked less and less like an innovator. he now seems past his sell-by date. A second preference verging on a third (if the Greens have a half-reasonable candidate).

Brian Paddick is a first preference this time by a long distance.

I’m voting for Brian. I voted for Ken before, and think some of his policies have been courageous and sensible, but I’ve been disappointed with all his identity politicking and his increasing arrogance in the face of questions. Perhaps power gets to us all in the end, and it’s just that he’s had two terms and the Assembly isn’t strong enough to rein in his worst excesses. That said, I thought Dispatches was poor: it had some good points to make but they got lost amid the obvious desire to do a hatchet job, which wasn’t really supported by the evidence. And some of it was misleading, which reflects worse on Bright than Livingstone.

I don’t know anything about Mr. Paddick.

But I do think the Mayor of London should be the second most important executive role in the country (let’s be honest, the Premiership is an exec role in these days of piss-weak cabinets). Neither Ken nor Boris stand out as outstanding candidates.

Boris is a wonderful character. A talented writer and a devilish wit, but c’mon; is he really ready to lead London in a time of worrying global economic stability.

Livingstone’s relationship with Chavez means little to me – Chavez is an elected leader and therefore deserves respect. I just don’t think Ken has done enough, is too error-prone, and relies on gimmicks too often. But he has done some good.

Seriously, in a world where NYC is run by Bloomberg, Stockholm by Kristina Axén Olin, and Tokyo is governed by the controversial – but visionary – Shintaro Ishihara, should we really settle for a barely-adequate leftwing blowhard and Boris?

Either way, London will end up with a half-arsed solution.

Oh dear, Sunny. Not many people appear to be agreeing with your “Ken is the only left wing candidate” assertion, do they?

Actually, nobody’s disagreed with that, because it’s just the factual truth.

However, some people are saying that they dislike Ken enough that, even though he’s the only left-wing candidate, they’re going to vote for the centrist anyway.

Hopefully, they’ll all at least put him down as second preference and keep out the despicable Johnson…

I’ve not been following this too closely because I’m not a Londoner, but aren’t there a SWPie and a decidedly red Green declared as candidates? Surely they are left-wing candidates.

I think putting him down as the second preference works. On that basis, I see Livingstone coming back again.

but I’ve been disappointed with all his identity politicking and his increasing arrogance in the face of questions.

Agree with that completely Olivia

Have a look at Tom Griffin’s post on that documentary (http://www.tomgriffin.org/the_green_ribbon/2008/01/theres-a-huge-a.html), it’s worth a read.

I think Livingstone has performed pretty well for London, but having lived here for only 2 1/2 years it’s slightly hard for me to judge. Anyone that lived here before he came in want to comment on the changes?


I won’t vote Ken again now that there are other candidates with a realistic chance of winning supporting the congestion charge (far too many broken promises over fare rises). Paddick strikes me as a bit useless from what I’ve seen so far, and seems to have an odd relationship with his former employers – a spat between the Mayor and the Met is the last thing we need. Plus I really don’t like the Lib Dems these days.

Boris, however, both entertains me and isn’t anywhere near as much of an idiot or danger as his opponents like to make out (that Compass briefing paper was hilariously wide of the mark, yet seems to have been swallowed whole by many who should know better than to assume that just because someone’s got a blue rosette they’re a racist/bigot). Plus, though he may not be left, he’s certainly liberal – both in a classical, economic sense and in being against ID cards, detention without trial, etc. etc.

There are other candidates, of course (last time round I seem to recall voting for one of them, with Ken as 2nd choice – never Norris and never Hughes), but of the big three, Boris is still out on top.

Which is probably why I’m not a contributor to this place…

(By the by, I’ve got a 1st edition of John Carvel’s ‘Citizen Ken’ for sale – signed by both Livingstone and the author – if anyone’s interested.)

I’m afraid Ken blew it when he stood up for Ian Blair after the Stockwell tube shooting. I will vote Lib Dem this time, though the only thing I’ve heard about Paddick is his promise to resign if he doesn’t cut crime. I wonder if he would stick to it?

Boris, however, both entertains me and isn’t anywhere near as much of an idiot or danger as his opponents like to make out … nosemonkey

I don’t think he’s dangerous, or an idiot, he’s clearly got excellent libertarian instincts and has a huge bookish intellect. But Boris is grossly under-qualified for the role of mayor. He has no experience of running anything bigger than the Spectator and has proven a disaster in the shadow roles he has been given – although, in fairness to BJ-The-Mayor-Bear, he’s usually been a disaster because he can control neither his mouth nor his cock, rather than any apparent lack of talent.

I suppose it’s difficult to get executive experience for a job like mayor of London, but I’d like to see a competent former MD or someone with experience of running a smaller conurbation or city take the reigns. The problem is of course the excessive power of Westminster: because we have little regional power (thanks to Thatcher – hero of the libertarians, my arse!), we have no training ground for potential executives, not to mention a complete lack of regional power structures to buttress against incompetence in Whitehall.

17. lynne featherstone

Brian’s got a strong, liberal approach to tackling crime. Also you can vote Brian 1, Ken 2 and not risk letting Johnson win, and just because Ken is left-wing shouldn’t blind
people to all the problems of misspent money at the London Development

Cycling is a key issue for me and Ken has a reasonable record. Brian has uttered not one word on the subject AFAICT despite my probing. So if there is a good green candidate and I have only one backup vote I have a problem in supporting Brian.

Problem is, left-wing doesn’t mean liberal. We have a left-wing government – or so we’re told – but it’s a long, long way from a liberal one.

>Cycling is a key issue

That would seem to imply Boris, who has defied Tory party policy on the issue on occasion.

I’m trying quite hard to avoid posting what I think of Ken, but I may lose the battle tomorrow. Too busy tonight.

Matt W

“Whatever one thinks of Trotskyist political prescriptions, revolutionary socialists are politically motivated an entirely noble desire to see an end to exploitation, oppression, poverty, violence, hunger, racism and injustice across the planet.”

Ha, Ha, Ha! If you believe that, you’d believe anything. They certainly go in for plenty of conspiracy, but no traces of liberalism – which is what I thought this site was about.

My own choice for Mayor would be Paddick; failing that, anyone but Ken.

There are three political issues that are by far and away the most significant in this election – law&order, transport and development – reflected in the budget that is controlled by the Mayor’s office.
On each Livingstone can claim to have failed or have had little impact at all, which is a spectacular track record to be running for re-election – just how low have our expectations sunk?
Aside from these we must ask what kind of example is being set by his tenure. Allegations of corruption, waste and partisanship should be taken extremely seriously when we make our decision, as the choice will set down a marker for the whole phase of the next political cycle, especially in the run up to the Olympics where huge levels of political capital are set to be made or lost depending on whether it will be seen as a complete embarrassment or anything more than a sorry disappointment.

Lynne, #17: With all due respect Paddick is far too one dimensional to run a city like London. That and the fact that he’s polling in single digits doesn’t give me enough to rationally consider him for Mayor.

Thomas at 22 nicely helps prompt a response to Aaron at 16. More of a question, really.

Bar introducing the congestion charge (for which he deserves a huge amount of credit, even though it no longer works properly), pointless propaganda rag The Londoner and bendy busses (despite, erm… having promised not to scrap the routemaster), what impact has Ken really had?

He’s meant to have some say over policing, but this is largely controlled by the borough councils and central government (as far as I can tell). He’s meant to have some say over housing, but this is largely determined by a combination of the market, the councils and central government – and after eight years of Ken there’s less afforable housing in London than ever.

So bar the childish ad hominem attacks on Boris for being a randy bugger (which hardly disqualifies him from performing well in high office, based on the track records of past adulterous politicos), as I can’t quite see what function the mayor really has, or what Livingstone’s actually achieved during his eight years in office, I can’t really see what experience and qualifications are necessary for a position that is really little more than a figurehead.

Plus, of course, Boris has the best chance of beating Ken, and I think it’s time Ken went. Just as I voted Lib Dem in the last council elections to get rid of the arsehole Tory in my ward, voted Tory in ’97 to get rid of the arsehole Lib Dem in my constituency, and voted for Labour/Ken in 2004 to stop the Tories/Norris, I’m quite happy to vote Boris to get rid of Ken. This tribal loyalty bemuses me – vote for the best person to do the job and, in the absence of anyone decent, vote against the person you dislike most. (Don’t like Boris and want to stop him getting in? Fine – your only safe option is to vote for Ken.)

If the worst the left can come up with to try and undermine Boris are unsupported allegations of racism, a few jokes about his private life, and Hillary-lite claims of a lack of experience to hold an elected position that’s supported by countless legions of advisors, civil servants, and other elected officials to prevent too many major cock-ups (it’s not like Boris will be given the Polaris launch codes, after all), you really must be desperate.

Sorry, I’ll stop now. Just somewhat bemused by this whole insistence that liberal = left. I’m a centrist liberal. As far as I can tell, although Boris is a little further to the right than I am, so’s he. I’m not, however, overly convinced of Livingstone’s liberalism.


That’s an incredibly unfair misrepresentation of no.16

Boris’ infidelities are indeed no reason for him to be denied office, as I stated his failures were not because of “any apparent lack of talent.” And it’s not me that publishes these stories, or buys the rags, but they do undermine him. Hell I’ve had an affair and had a divorce, so I’m no moral compass!

The press will have a field day with him: rightly or wrongly. As the blog Obsolete regularly exposes, the tabloids are a shower of shite, but they *are* a reality.

I do think, for the many failures for which you condemn Ken, that the mayor is a key position – and maybe its power should be increased in line with my line:

But I do think the Mayor of London should be the second most important executive role in the country (let’s be honest, the Premiership is an exec role in these days of piss-weak cabinets). Neither Ken nor Boris stand out as outstanding candidates. ~ Aaron no.8

Finally, this has bugger all to do with partisanship. I said in no.8 that both candidates represent a “half-arsed solution”, Ken included. You’re right that tactical voting is useful to get rid of clowns, but it is also a symptom of a rubbish choice of candidates on the whole. I don’t want a politician, I want an executive. That said, I don’t live in London (even if I’m regularly in the city).

Aaron – sorry, that wasn’t all aimed at you, just prompted in part by some of what you said. Should have made myself clearer.

(Utterly off the point, but personally I see no need for a mayor of London at all – decentralise whenever possible, I reckon. Why whack an extra layer of bureaucracy and expense on top of the borough councils when they’re already unweildy enough?)

How many choices do we get under STV?

First choice: Brian
Second choice: My grandma who died in 2001
Third choice: My dog
Fourth choice: Ken
Fifth choice: Heath Ledger

I’ll stop there.

What worries me in a way is what would happen if someone other than Ken were elected.

I don’t think for one moment that Johnson is the disaster area his image seems to suggest, but there is a vast army of people and structures who owe their professional existence to Ken and whose loyalty, frankly, knows no bounds. Some are utterly committed professionals. A few wouldn’t hesitate to put a spanner in the works.

Then there’s the small matter of Johnson’s policies, some of which are simply no-go for me.

What I’ve seen and heard of Brian Paddick tells me he has some interesting policy positions but is otherwise utterly unprepared for a hugely consuming position.

Which brings us back to Ken, and that depresses me. How a man who professes commitment to the most liberal of causes can engage in such an authoritarian electoral strategy and roll out the (publicly-funded) propaganda attack dogs everytime awkward questions are asked is beyond me.

Yes, the Standard has it in for him, no, some of the accusations aren’t true. But anyone who has been within 50 paces of the GLA knows the ring of truth in much of what has been said.

Ken has to confront the problems, not the accuser. Otherwise a great city is left with a dismal choice.

If he is elected again and doesn’t confront these problems it will only end in tears.

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