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Decisions. decisions - My Thoughts Today
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Decisions. decisions
Like many Londoners, my post this morning included a ballot paper from the Conservative Party for their London Mayoral Candidate selection. Nothing unusual in that as a card-carrying party member (doesn't that have a deliciously Stalinist sound to it?) but this time around the ballot is open to all residents of Greater London irrespective of political persuasion. I'm still in two minds as to whether this is a cunning move or absolute folly - there's nothing to stop other parties from coordinating their efforts to ensure that we end up with the least of the four candidates, but as a political point-scoring exercise against the current democratically unelected Prime Minister it's an amusing jape ;p

I must admit that in the last two Mayoral elections I voted with personal rather than party conviction: in all honesty I believed Ken Livingstone to be a better choice for Mayor than Steve Norris, despite the obvious mismatch in our political beliefs, and I have been no more disappointed by the reality of his administration than of ideologically more acceptable representatives for whom I've voted in other elections.

But I think the time has come for a change. Not because of anything that Ken has specifically said or done - I find bluntness and a refusal to apologise for occasional gaffs an admirable trait in a modern politician. However a politician who attains that magical third term in any significant office generally loses sight of the people who put them in power, and I expect Ken to be no different in that regarded than the sainted Margaret or destiny-touched Blair. The Mayor's administration has bloated and needs rationalising, it's budget needs pruning back, and a fairer balance needs to be struck between local boroughs and the central authority. It's the nature of socialists to believe in central planning, and there are times when they're right to advocate such policies (e.g. a city-wide integrated transport policy), but there also needs to be trust that local communities can make the best decisions regarding their future.

In the case of London the primary areas where central planning is desirable are its transport infrastructure and in representing the needs of the financial engines that power it, whether in championing affordable housing for key workers - not just public sector workers, but all who directly contribute to the huge tax surplus that London generates for the exchequer - or in standing up to government over unnecessary red tape that prevents business from achieving its full potential. Despite his best efforts and intentions Ken has failed to deliver the level of public transport that the capital needs to function comfortably and the price of casual travel is extortionate, whilst the issue of affordable housing looms even larger now than it did eight years ago.

I appreciate that any Mayor will be limited in their ability to fulfil the expectations of the average voter due to the emasculated nature of the office, but that's not to say that a change of approach couldn't improve matters. And a change of approach would definitely follow if any of the Tory candidates get the job. So who are these Tory hopefuls? An interesting mix:

  • former government advisor Warwick Lightfoot will appeal to the business community with his emphasis on fighting their corner, but his message also focuses on issues of social inclusion and local control is relevant to inner-city boroughs;

  • fellow Kensington & Chelsea councillor Victoria Borwick seems the most traditional in her views and lays out a strong manifesto of improved policing, green technology and abolition of the congestion charge;

  • Boris Johnson is a well-known and occasionally controversial figure with a manifesto focused on improving the quality of life across the city and an emphasis on fixing our long-suffering transport system;

  • the final candidate is political dynamo Andrew Boff, standing on a platform of decentralisation and increased powers for individual boroughs.

Who will I be voting for? Well that's a tough question to answer. Each candidate has a strong manifesto, and it's good to see such a strong emphasis on tackling the issues of social inclusion and lack of affordable housing that plague the metropolis. Boris has an obvious advantage thanks to his higher public profile but it's easy to overestimate the benefit that brings. Then of course there's the alarming similarity between Victoria and my family's very own political black-sheep - the Labour councillor I affectionately call mother: is it unfair to hold red hair against a candidate? Warwick has put by far the most effort into expressing his views on his website, but as a former special advisor to Conservative governments of yesteryear he suffers from the John Redwood syndrome. And Andrew? His track record is impressive and his use of New Labour's colour scheme is an interesting gimmick, but can he really deliver the second-preference votes from non-Tories that he'll need to ensure electoral success?

One thing's for sure, with twenty days to go until the ballot closes I wont be alone in doing some hard thinking...

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5 opinions or participate
(Deleted comment)
From: mikescott Date: September 7th, 2007 01:05 pm (UTC) (permanent link)

Re: A jaded view on those manifesto summaries..

It must now be time for us to at least stop fighting over Boris and back one of the other candidates, With so little content in his speeches and far fewer ideas he may win popular support but we want a Conservative mayor who will actually listen to us, a less famous content candidate is needed.
feyeleanor From: feyeleanor Date: September 7th, 2007 04:29 pm (UTC) (permanent link)

Re: A jaded view on those manifesto summaries..

Well I must confess to having made joking asides that Boris should run for Mayor for the last couple of years, partly on the grounds that he's a well-known London Tory but mostly because I like his habit of saying almost exactly the wrong thing at the least appropriate moment. I'm not sure that's a good trait for a Mayor, but Ken Livingstone has a similar tendency and it doesn't seem to have harmed him.
feyeleanor From: feyeleanor Date: September 7th, 2007 01:48 pm (UTC) (permanent link)

Re: A jaded view on those manifesto summaries..

Lovely summary :)

Poor Warwick Lightfoot probably doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell. The days when mayors were expected to focus on business are long gone, and I'm not sure being nice is enough to attract votes in sufficient quantity.

I think Victoria Borwick could find cutting the congestion charge an own goal now that the party's committed to not cutting any of Gordon Brown's taxes. Anyway what measures would she put in its place to keep congestion under control? The one thing everyone agreed on prior to its introduction was that congestion in Central London had reached unacceptable levels, and the charge has definitely had a major impact on the problem. Her hackneyed "promote green technology" line is all well and good, but she has to lay out what those technologies are to be convincing.

There's something strangely persuasive about Boris Johnson that I'm sure I should be worrying about: are the fnords on his side? have I read one too many of his editorials? is there a steel-trap spin doctor's mind lurking under that dishevelled mop of white-blond hair?

The fact that Andrew Boff has consistently stood in previous selection suggests that he's committed to the idea of being Mayor, and I can see the value of getting an openly gay Tory in such a prominent role as part of establishing the party's new caring, sharing, inclusive credentials. Anyway what's not to like about celebrating St. George's Day - a chance to spend a whole day drinking warm ale. Make mine a Bishop's Finger :)
savantfoxt From: savantfoxt Date: September 9th, 2007 12:44 pm (UTC) (permanent link)
A tough choice!

Certainly red Ken has outstayed his welcome as mayor, you can only be so long in a position of power without running out of ideas an becoming either a sensible pragmatist (but what politician does that these days) or jumping on any fringe bandwagon because they actually have some ideas.
A change is needed.

Boris always comes across as a buffoon who would have trouble running his own house let alone the nation's capitol, business still has more than enough sway since the social chapter was shelved, reversing the congestion charges would be throwing good money after bad and decentralising would make the office itself rather meaningless.

Where amongst all the partys is a candidate who will move the city and policies forward?
Surely the Olympics is the biggest issue due to the huge amounts of investment in building and infrastrucure needed, the debt likely be accrued and potential for revenue during the games itself.
I would hope that someone affable with a tough budgetary approach and knack for meeting deadlines would be a better candidate... where's Ken Clarke when you need him!

Still, since I don't live in London - could I really give a monkeys...?
feyeleanor From: feyeleanor Date: September 9th, 2007 01:22 pm (UTC) (permanent link)
Hey, I do live here and I'm not sure I can either ;p Let's face it, most people see the office of Mayor as nothing more than 'person who should solve the transport crisis' and the GLA is a pale shadow of the typical county council. However as a way of sticking two fingers in the air at the government of the day, voting for Mayor of London is a perversely enjoyable pastime.

Ken Clarke would indeed be a good Tory candidate for the job, having the kind of voter appeal that few others can muster and the track-record of tough fiscal control (before that term became so devalued by Mr Brown and his public sector borrowing scams). Still, I suspect Ken has too much sense to want to be Mayor.

I'm surprised that no one put pressure on Portillo to stand, as he's another candidate that would do well in the polls and since turning to the nice side a few years ago he'd be likely to do something about the Capital's social problems.

The lack of much commentary about the impact of the Olympics is worrying. It's one of those elephant in the living-room issues that really needs to be dealt with: costs appear to be spiralling out of control and the benefit to the city seems marginal at this point, so someone with good ideas about how to fleece encourage Olympic visitors to invest in the city's well-being would be nice!
5 opinions or participate