My post for Left Foot Forward
Ken Livingstone outlined the key policies for his campaign to be Mayor of London at the Labour party conference yesterday. Introducing the candidate, shadow Olympics minister Tessa Jowell gave a brilliant overview of how Livingstone has paved the way for regeneration in the East End ahead of 2012; and Labour party conference was made confident that “London is Ken’s city, and the people are Ken’s Londoners”.
Livingstone, donning an ‘I love London’ badge on his suit jacket, began by assuring the audienceelecting a Labour Mayor in London doesn’t just benefit the capital; it benefits the country.
London can produce the kind of economic growth that can be used to invest in all regions, he said. Referring to his election defeat in 2008, Livingstone said the last three years have given him a chance to reflect and “to see things the way that ordinary Londoners see them”.
Ken accused Boris Johnson of “taking London in the wrong direction” since that time, highlighting the riots, the highest rates of unemployment and the fact London’s councils have seen higher budget cuts than anywhere else in the country.
Livingstone’s address focused on the fact Boris Johnson represents a minority of Londoners. He reminded his audience the Mayor is raising fares above inflation year on year, meeting with bankers more than the Met and incessantly calling for tax cuts for the richest, stressing the Tories in City Hall are not fighting London’s corner but their own.
He accused the Tory Mayor of taking a back seat when it comes to defending young people by supporting the government’s plans to pile debt on students, quoting Johnson’s praising of plans for a private university with £18,000-a-year fees as “unambiguously good news”
He also mentioned that Wandsworth Council had planned to charge children to play in their local park, and how Boris reacted to this by appointing its leader as his Chief of Staff; Livingstone said:
“Boris Johnson is the problem, not the solution.“
Labour’s candidate was also keen to show Johnson is also the leading Conservative calling for a cut to the 50p tax for the richest 1%, comparing it with the fact he introduced, and continues to support, the London Living Wage, which benefits those on the lowest incomes.
In addition, Livingstone mentioned the fact Johnson earns more as a Telegraph columnist than he does by being Mayor, and that the number of City Hall staff being paid more than £100,000 has doubled since he left office.
In a significant policy revelation, Ken Livingstone stated that, if elected, he will:
• Reverse all police cuts carried out by Boris Johnson;And today, Livingstone became the first politician to announce a policy by text message: if elected next year, he will cut London’s fares by 5%, freeze them until 2014, and not increase them above inflation from thereon.
• Support a call to cut VAT, not the 50p tax;
• Freeze his own salary, and that of his advisers;
• Only do the job of Mayor of London;
• Fight the government to defend London’s hospitals; and
• Stand up for students against rising tuition fees and education cuts;
Today’s announcements are a huge development in the Mayoral race, and as Livingstone is the first candidate to reveal any real manifesto pledges, this should be a move set to boost him in the polls.
As tonight’s Standard said of Livingstone, he has his:
“Finger on the capital’s pulse.”