Like many London Labour members, I’ve been keeping a close eye on our mayoral selection, which has galvanised and polarised London activists more than the leadership campaigns.
Several times over the past few weeks, I’ve been struck by negative comments made by Oona King and her campaign highlighting Ken Livingstone’s age.
This blogpost by Oona offers one of the clearest examples:
“And I don’t think Ken Livingstone is the way to go. He may qualify for Britain’s Got Talent but only on UK Gold.”
There are several reasons why these ageist comments need to stop.
First, this characterisation of Ken Livingstone as ‘past it’ simply isn’t true. At 65, Ken is still extremely active in London politics and benefits from his vast experience as a councillor, MP, GLA leader and mayor. Those who think that 65 is too old should tell that to Nelson Mandela, 75 when first elected. Our own head of state is still going strong at 84, well past the state pension age.
Second, what sort of message does it send out to older voters? It seems to say that the campaign is quite happy to accept the votes of older people, but doesn’t think that someone their age would be capable of actually running anything. Coming as this does just after an apparent threat to the universality of the freedom pass, the combination may well indicate to voters over 65 that Oona’s campaign just isn’t interested in their needs and issues. Whether this is true or not, it sends the wrong signals to the hundreds of thousands of older people across the capital who will vote in 2012.
As a Ken supporter, but also as a Labour party member, I’m fed up with this sort of negative campaigning. I don’t want a Labour candidate who feels it necessary to launch personal attacks on a rival. I want to vote for someone who puts forward a positive vision of what their experience and ideas will contribute to London, not someone whose widely-publicised comments are handing attack lines straight to the Tories.
Both of Labour’s candidates should stand on their own records. Petty personal side-swipes don’t impress the Labour members who will select them, and they won’t impress the electorate.
Christine Quigley is chair of London young Labour.