Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Letter from London 27th February 2006

Published in the "Bahrain Tribune"

I voted for Ken Livingstone to be Mayor of London in the last mayoral election and I would vote for him again. This is for three main reasons two of which are fairly rational and one of which is more emotional and a tad mischievous. The rational reasons are that Mr Livingstone has really achieved something in his years as Mayor - not least improving London's transport infrastructure significantly. His introduction of electronic road pricing was brave and despite the dire predictions that the system would not work it has been a resounding success. The technology works reliably and central London is much clearer of traffic as a result. Some useful funds have been added to London's income as well. Ken has also greatly improved London's buses and he is also tackling the huge task of getting a better underground railway system. The second rational reason is that the Mayor is enthusiastic and unyielding in his pursuit of London's interests and is quite happy to take on Government or anybody else who he sees standing in the city's way. It was this enthusiasm that led to Ken's unequivocal support for the London 2012 Olympic bid - a key factor in the bid's success.

The emotional and mischievous reason for my veneration of Ken Livingstone is that the sort of people that oppose him are just the sort of people who it is always a pleasure to annoy! Ken is a hate figure for all of those who define personal freedom as the freedom to do what they like and when they like without "vulgar people like Ken Livingstone" interfering. So they are affronted that it now costs them money to drive their Four wheel drive gas guzzlers into London and by the various other "losses of liberty" that they see from the Greater London Authority's rulings. That the London bus service is improved is of no interest to this privileged mob as they wouldn't be seen dead on a bus anyway.

The newspapers of choice for the Ken Livingstone hate brigade are those owned by "Associated Newspapers" - the Daily Mail and the London Evening Standard. These newspapers have attacked Ken for more than thirty years, often in the vilest of terms. It was this history that led to the Mayor's intemperate outburst at a reporter last year - an outburst that has got Livingstone into trouble and for which he has now been suspended from office for a month. Whilst the Mail and the Standard and their petty-minded readerships will be crowing with pleasure this is not the position of the political world which has roundly condemned the fact that an unelected quango can remove from office a democratically elected Mayor. Livingstone's opponents may well rue the day that this suspension happened because Ken is at his best when his back is against the wall. He will turn this indignity to his advantage you can be sure - and I for one will cheer when he does!