Campaign on the NHS

I see that Ken Livingstone has launched a petition designed to hold David Cameron and Boris Johnson to their promises on the NHS and in particular to:

* Protect Health Care services

* Stop precious NHS money being wasted on a big top-down reorganisation which is putting the NHS at risk

* Provide the real increase we were promised in NHS funding

You can sign by going to:

Is this the first sign of a future electoral pact between the Tories and the LibDems? And more to the point, has either Party Leader told his respective Party?

On Wednesday afternoon the House of Lords will consider the Local Authorities (Mayoral Elections) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2011.

And what does this worthy statutory instrument do?

The explanatory note says:

“The Regulations amend Schedule 1 (The Mayoral Elections Rules) and Schedule 3 (Mayoral Election (Combination of Polls) Rules) to the Local Authorities (Mayoral Elections) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007. The amendments in each case enable a candidate who is standing for election on behalf of two or more registered political parties to request that the ballot paper in an election may feature, alongside the candidate’s particulars, an emblem registered by one of those political parties.”

This means that a candidate can be put up by more than one Party and the respective Party emblems can appear on the ballot paper.

Why is this being introduced now?

Could it be that David Cameron and Nick Clegg have privately agreed to put up joint candidates in future Mayoral elections?

Do they envisage their two emblems flying proudly side by side?

Have they told their respective Parties?

And what would Margaret Thatcher say?

A good analysis of the way in which demonstrations get hijacked

Luke Akehurst has written an excellent analysis at Labour Uncut of the way in which extreme groupings can hijack demonstrations for their own purposes.  Their activities must not be allowed to detract from the message of the vast majority of those demonstrating.

However, if – as seems likely – we are entering an era of more frequent demonstrations, there are important lessons here for both those organising demonstrations and for the police.

Ken Livingstone wins the Mayoral nomination in convincing style

I have just returned from the announcement by Harriet Harman, as Acting Leader of the Labour Party, of the result of the ballot for Labour’s nomination for London Mayor.  Ken Livingstone won convincingly by more than 2:1 over Oona King following a lengthy campaign in which huge numbers of London Labour Party members took part.

I had always been sure that Ken would win but the margin was substantially better than the 3:2 I had expected.

It is a very good basis for the forthcoming campaign, particularly following Ooona King’s very gracious and fulsome concession speech declaring her support for the successful candidate.

A less than coherent performance from Mayor Boris Johnson as he announces that he is planning to stand again in 2012

Mayor Boris Johnson has a reputation as being a good media performer, but his appearance this morning on LBC with Nick Ferrari was hardly sparkling.  I gather even his handlers were dismayed.

He was anything but incisive in describing what he believes his Mayoralty has or will have achieved – despite the benefit of extensive crib sheets (from which he was obviously reading). 

He managed to make his so-called big announcement a model of rambling incoherence. 

And he was less than convincing in ruling out a challenge to David Cameron as Leader of the Conservative Party – utilising a strange metaphor about being decapitated by a frisbee.

It looks to me as if he’ll have to raise his game.  Maybe his performance today is the reason he has refused to respond to most journalists’ requests for interviews about his record.

Judge for yourself:

Kurds for Ken

I’ve just returned from a lively event supporting Ken Livingstone’s campaign to be nominated as the Labour candidate for London Mayor in 2012. It was organised by Kurds for Labour and was well-attended.
The man himself was in lively form, sketching out a vision for the next Mayoral term which could be a fore-runner for the national Party’s offer to the electorate at the next General Election – just as the Labour administration in the London County Council led by Hebert Morrison in the 1930s demonstrated what a Labour Government nationally could deliver in 1945.
And who was that lurking at the edge of the room? Neither a Kurd, nor Labour, but former Tory MP, Andrew Pelling – motivated to be present apparently by an abiding dislike of Old Etonians.

Why I am voting for Ken Livingstone as Labour candidate for London Mayor in 2012

In the run up to the first Mayoral elections in 2000 I was anything but a Ken Livingstone supporter.  Indeed, I even wrote an article in the Evening Standard entitled “London Deserves Better” arguing that neither Ken nor the emerging Conservative candidate at the time (one Jeffrey Archer – before he went to prison) were suitable candidates to be London Mayor.

But that was before I worked with Ken during his first term as Mayor.  For those four years, I led the Labour Group on the London Assembly and chaired the Metropolitan Police Authority and I saw at close quarters Ken’s commitment to London, his political courage and determination, and his ability to make things happen.

And a lot did happen.  There was the successful introduction of the congestion charge – something that most pundits were convinced would never happen when the provision was first included in the Greater London Authority Bill.  It required vision, drive and an attention to detail.  And Ken showed that he had all three.

There was the transformation of the bus service in London – so that the capital became the only part of the country where there was a shift of traffic away from other transport modes.  And, of course, those four years saw the birth of the Oyster Card – then an innovation, now an integral part of London life.

At the same time, London’s policing was turned round: morale increased; the haemorrhaging of police numbers (which had started under Conservative Home Secretary, Michael Howard) was reversed; Police Community Support Officers were introduced and began their visible patrols all over London, leading to the creation of Safer Neighbourhood Teams in every Council ward in the city; and crime rates that had been increasing for years started to come down.

In Ken’s second term, I was less closely involved.  However, all Londoners saw the leadership that successfully won the bid to host the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012 and that brought London together following the terror attacks in July 2005.  There was also the leadership shown on climate change, which established London as one of the leading cities in combatting the effects of global warming.

All of this was a big contrast with the Boris Johnson Mayorality, where despite the frequent announcements of “new” initiatives that either turn into damp squibs, like the “Story of London Festival“, or are re-packaged initiatives started under Ken’s period as Mayor.  The major so-called success has been the new cycle hire scheme – again originally initiated by Ken – but with the details mismanaged by Boris Johnson and his team – see the analysis by Helen at Boris Watch.

So why should Ken be the candidate in 2012?

The first point to make is that he is the best-qualified candidate.  An effective London Mayor must have a coherent vision for London.  And this means much more than merely stringing together a series of half-worked-through ideas.  Ken has that vision – a vision he has been refining and articulating throughout his political life.  What is more London’s Mayor must be committed to the job.  It should not be regarded as a stepping stone to some different office (as the current incumbent clearly regards it), nor should it be a consolation prize for someone who has failed in their political career elsewhere.  Ken is committed to London and I have already mentioned his political courage and determination, coupled with his ability to make things happen.

The second point is the breadth and clarity about what he would want to achieve for London and Londoners in the next Mayoral term.  This includes:

  • the visionary proposal to make London the world’s first ‘Smart City’, utilising cutting-edge technology to the full;
  • introducing electric buses to cut emissions;
  • managing the tube upgrades more effectively so as to minimise disruption;
  • refocussing housing investment on affordable housing;
  • reinvigorating London’s cultural life with a commitment to live music;
  • protecting and promoting jobs in London by engaging directly with the world’s great economies and capitalising on London’s diversity and diaspora to make this a reality;
  • making the Living Wage a condition of procurement; and
  • rebuilding the consensus on major infrastructure projects in London to strengthen not only London’s economy but to benefit the UK as a whole.

Can he win?  ConservativeHome clearly think he can, pointing out that “London isn’t the most hospitable territory for the Tories” and that it “won’t be easy” for Boris Johnson.  And as Steve Hart’s detailed analysis has shown the 2008 election:

“took place on a very bad night for Labour  …..  one of the worst nights of local election results since before the second world war, with Labour polling 24%.  …. On this terrible night for Labour Ken Livingstone actually increased his first preference votes from 685,541 in 2004, to 893,877 in 2008. This was not simply a consequence of a higher poll. He actually increased his share of first preference votes by 1.3% from 35.7 per cent to 37 per cent (the London wide Labour member vote increased by 0.32 per cent to 27.12 per cent, which was 10 per cent behind Ken?s vote).

Any reasonable interpretation of these results would suggest that on virtually any other Thursday of the last five years, Ken would have been likely to win. Ken?s share was higher than Labour achieved on General Election night in London – when the national results had Labour 10 per cent better than in 2008. On this alone, it is clear than Ken was outperforming Labour by a wide margin and also that, to a lesser extent, London Labour outperformed the rest of the country.”

The message is that Ken has consistently out-performed Labour in the elections he has stood in and as Steve Hart concludes:

“The evidence that Ken is a substantial electoral asset across London is substantial, whereas the only evidence regarding Oona is that she has lost a safe seat; and nothing whatsoever suggests that Ken?s rival for the nomination is an asset in any other part of London.”

Now this does not mean that Ken Livingstone is without his flaws – indeed no political leader with any flair ever can be.  Nor does it mean that I agree with all the judgements he made during his terms as Mayor (I disagreed, for example, with his decision to extend the original Congestion Charge zone westwards rather than creating a separate zone).  However, I am clear that having Ken Livingstone back as London’s Mayor would be good for London and Londoners and that Ken Livingstone is the candidate best-placed to win the Mayorality for Labour and to get rid of the current ill-focused and chaotic regime.

We shouldn’t ignore the story that Vince Cable is going to run for London Mayor

A couple of days ago Michael Crick floated the story that Vince Cable is being touted round as a candidate for London Mayor in 2012 (and not just as the LibDem candidate but as the COALITION candidate, but then soft-pedalled vigorously the following day.

However, his suggestion does have some real credibility.  Consider the following:

  1. Vince Cable is clearly hating his current role in the Cabinet.  His body language oozes unhappiness.  He is visibly miserable about some aspects of Coalition policy and displays none of the relish shown by Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne and the others for ditching major cherished pillars of LibDem orthodoxy.
  2. Boris Johnson is desperately seeking a way out of contesting the Mayorality again in 2012.  It has turned out to be much harder work than he expected and it interferes with his extra-mural activities.  What is more, he is terrified of losing and he really, really, really wants to back in the House of Commons making his pitch to be the next Leader of the Conservative Party.  Interestingly, he has still failed to state clearly that he wants to run again.
  3. David Cameron would dearly love to remove Boris Johnson’s platform (of course, he’d probably like to remove other things of his as well) which is used to grandstand on issues that undermine the Coalition while strengthening the standing that Boris has in the wider Conservative Party.
  4. David Cameron does not want to see a Conservative candidate lose the most high-profile directly-elected position in the country.
  5. Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg would like to bolster the Coalition and keep open the possibility of a non-aggression pact for their two Parties in the next General Election.  A coalition candidate for Mayor might just win and would be a big boost to Coalition candidates being fielded in 2015 (or whenever the General Election takes place).
  6. The best alternative candidate the LibDems can come up with is Lembit Opik.
  7. The best alternative candidate the Conservatives can come up with is Kit Malthouse.
  8. Successfully imposing the notion of fielding a Coalition candidate would put Simon “no election pacts” Hughes firmly back into his box.

It all begins to look scarily plausible ….

Another day to vote for (or against) this blog (and your other favourites)

I have already explained that I really don’t mind.

However, just in case you really really want to cast your vote for this blog in the Total Politics annual beauty parade, this is what you have to do:

The rules are:
1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and rank them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include at least FIVE blogs in your list, but please list ten if you can. If you include fewer than five, your vote will not count.
4. Email your vote to
5. Only vote once.
6. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents or based on UK politics are eligible. No blog will be excluded from voting.
7. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name.
8. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2010. Any votes received after that date will not count.

So I’m not asking you to do it, but I really won’t mind if you do……