Vote for Ken !
Let’s start with the positives. Livingstone has devoted his life to London. Shamefully treated by Margaret Thatcher in the petty and vindictive fight that she chose to pick over the role of the GLC Ken has risen from this setback to be the man who more than anyone has made London the great city it is today. Livingstone is the type of man who makes me think that politics can still be a noble profession. Why? Because Ken does things that matter and that make a difference. Unlike those in the land of the bland who need focus groups and advisors to tell them what to do Ken does it because he believes in it. He isn’t always right, of course – that’s the risk that conviction politicians have to take. But he is more often right than wrong. There are plenty of examples but the Congestion Charge is the best. How all of Ken’s enemies were standing on the sidelines (their customary position) to jeer in expectation of failure. How many Telegraph pieces and saloon bar gossipers were saying that it wouldn’t work, that it couldn’t work and that, as a result, the Mayor’s days were numbered. But it did work without a blip. Since the London plan was introduced, in 2003, vehicle speeds in the city’s central business district have increased by thirty-seven per cent and carbon-dioxide emissions from cars and trucks have dropped by fifteen per cent. One of the world’s greatest cities has a traffic management system that is the envy of the others– and without Ken Livingstone it wouldn’t have happened!
Now the negatives about Boris Johnson. Anyone, like me, who was privately educated and grew up in the post war years on a diet of Bunter and Biggles, knows the type. We didn’t have too many at my public school, actually – maybe it was too minor. But Eton turns them out by the Daimler-load. For years the Conservative party was led by these patricians – a long almost unbroken line from Salisbury to Home had the Noblesse that only Eton or Harrow or Rugby can bring. Sometimes there was a bit of the “Oblige” with the Noblesse - generally when an election was in the offing. And now, in the depths of their distress at being out of office so long, the Tories have reverted to type. The Bullingdon boys, Cameron, Osborne and Johnson are on the march! I don’t doubt that they are clever – if you pay £25,000 a year for your education that’s the least that a parent has a right to expect. But will the sensible British public be seduced by the fluffy hair and the well-modulated voices? Will they be fooled into thinking that the ability to govern in modern Britain is somehow helped by a privileged upbringing? Or will they feel, as I do, that what we look for in our leaders today is more than an easy manner and a patrician smile.