Oona King backtracks on Freedom Pass pledge


4:38 pm - August 2nd 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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London Labour Mayoral candidate Oona King has been accused of backtracking over her pledges on the Freedom Pass – which allows pensioners to access London transport for free.

Blogger Ben Folley has written of instances where Oona stated that there was a case for abandoning universal provision of the Freedom Pass and adopting means testing.

23rd July, Croydon hustings: “The Government is threatening to means test the Freedom Pass. Do you believe it should be means tested?”

Oona King replied:

I don’t want to, but if budgets are tight, money is short, you need to prioritise. I want to help the poorest. That’s why we are in politics, to help the poorest, like my bus policy.. If there is a choice, then I want the money to go to the poorest, not to pay for the richest.. like Prince Charles to go free. My priority is for bus fares to be cut if possible paid for by money from the western extension, congestion charge…

29th July, Brent hustings: “There has been some talk that the Freedom Pass may be means tested. Are there any circumstances in which you would accept this?”

Oona King replied:

There are some circumstances that I would accept saying to someone like Prince Philip or other extremely rich pensioners in London that you can no longer have free travel in London, the average not the poorest pensioner. I think we should extend it onto train companies for example

But if you are the mayor and you have got less money coming in you need to ensure the average pensioner can have the same experience or better than those richer ones you need to accept means testing.

But Oona King has now sent out a mailer responding to these claims and calling them “fibs”. She said:

I support – and I will defend with every breath in my body – the Freedom Pass. Pensioners and the disabled need and deserve free travel around London.

I wrote this in my transport manifesto which I published two weeks ago, you can read it here.

Some bloggers are calling it a gaffe.

Martin Hoscik from MayorWatch told us it did not bode well for Oona:

Freedom Pass is administered by London Councils and is protected by primary legislation as a universal scheme. The law doesn’t allow for means testing and any changes outside the statutory minimum needs all london boroughs to agree them.

The real issue is that Team Oona allowed her to comment in response to fears people have expressed to her, rather than learn how the scheme works and calm their fears. It’s not exactly leadership stuff to be honest, and the Mayor has to be a leader.

He also wrote earlier on why the Freedom Pass shouldn’t become a political football.

Update 18:50 pm The row over the Freedom Pass escalates. We’ve been notified that Len Duvall, leader of the Labour Group at the GLA, sent out an email to Labour councillors today stating:

We have to be clear in this debate. It simply does not help Labour to have arguments in favour of means testing the Freedom Pass being mobilised in this way. I welcome the fact that Oona now wishes to change the position she took in these hustings. But London Labour cannot afford to have ambiguity on such important issues when they come up.

Some press reports suggest that the Tory government may be considering a means test for the national pensioners’ travel concession. So we cannot afford to have arguments in London that help that case either. And if we are not going to do it, why make the case for means testing?

Len Duvall is supporting Ken Livingstone for London’s Mayoral candidate.

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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 attended the Brent hustings and can attest to King saying she didn’t want millionnaires being entitled to bus passes as we can’t afford it. After this she mentioned child benefit and how we ought to meas-test that as people like her were getting it, and this wasn’t fair. She called this the really progressive way and left the door wide open for Ken to wax positive about universal benefits.

Having been corrected in a blog post I had written about it last week by Adam Bienkov, I can now attest to the fact that this is not the first time during the mayoral labour candidate contest that King has said something, and when had it repeated back to them, deny it.

This should all make my choice on who to pick when I come to vote pretty easy, but I can tell you it does not.

I really hoped Oona would give Ken a run for his money but the more I see of her in action the more I just want it over and Ken nominated. Oona should have done a great deal better…

“Oona should have done a great deal better…”

Based on what ? She’s a typical machine politician – no principle, no charm, and no real world experience.

The real question is where do these people come from. As a freelance scientist I have come up with two hypothesis:

1 – Mandelson clones them in a secret laboratory under Millbank. When not dancing the tango he’s a production line Frankenstein.

2 – The Tories are operating an ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ type of scheme, systematically replacing Labour politicians with dead-eyed replicants.

Given the profusion of plastic politicos it could even be the case that BOTH of these things are true.

Spooky !

Still no denial from the King camp that she is a construct.

Excellent. Back to the corpse on the block. Shoo those newts away, Igor, and throw the switch.

He lives ! He lives ! Mwahahahaha !

I’m with Len 100%


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Oona King backtracks on Freedom Pass pledge http://bit.ly/ddb7ZA

  2. joe derrett

    RT @libcon: Oona King backtracks on Freedom Pass pledge http://bit.ly/ddb7ZA

  3. Liberal Conspiracy

    Is Oona King unsure of how the London Freedom Pass works? Our story updated: http://bit.ly/ddb7ZA

  4. sunny hundal

    @MayorWatch I've updated the story with your points. http://bit.ly/ddb7ZA

  5. Adam White

    RT @libcon: Is Oona King unsure of how the London Freedom Pass works? Our story updated: http://bit.ly/ddb7ZA

  6. Liberal Conspiracy

    Freedom Pass row escalates; London Labour leader @len_duvall criticises @Oona_King for "changing her position" http://bit.ly/ddb7ZA

  7. Adam Bienkov

    Oona King tying herself in knots about the Freedom Pass http://bit.ly/aMKPBG

  8. Leon Green

    RT @AdamBienkov: Oona King tying herself in knots about the Freedom Pass http://bit.ly/aMKPBG

  9. Political Scrapbook

    RT @AdamBienkov: Oona King tying herself in knots about the Freedom Pass http://bit.ly/aMKPBG

  10. Andy Sutherland

    RT @AdamBienkov: Oona King tying herself in knots about the Freedom Pass http://bit.ly/aMKPBG

  11. Ben Furber

    RT @AdamBienkov: Oona King tying herself in knots about the Freedom Pass http://bit.ly/aMKPBG

  12. Steve Chambers

    RT @AdamBienkov: Oona King tying herself in knots about the Freedom Pass http://bit.ly/aMKPBG < She doesn't really know London politics.

  13. Cath Ronay

    RT @AdamBienkov: Oona King tying herself in knots about the Freedom Pass http://bit.ly/aMKPBG

  14. Seph Brown | It is dangerous to be right…

    […] This is not funny. Not least of all when seemingly trying to make political capital out of your opponent’s age. Brazenly attacking his breadth of experience could also be a miscalculation when it appears that her positions on some of the most important issues facing Londoners are less than consistent. […]

  15. SOCIALIST UNITY » NEGATIVITY WON'T DO IT FOR OONA

    […] This is not funny. Not least of all when seemingly trying to make political capital out of your opponent’s age. Brazenly attacking his breadth of experience could also be a miscalculation when it appears that her positions on some of the most important issues facing Londoners are less than consistent. […]

  16. Must Try Harder – Oona’s Transport Policies | North of the Thames

    […] doesn’t control or pay for, its seems illogical (and poor judgement) for her to have become embroiled in an argument as to whether it should be means-tested or […]





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