Last night’s mayoral debate was a train wreck, today’s tax developments make things worse

by Helen Godwin Tiege

Wasn’t last night’s mayoral debate depressing?

A quick look through my twitter feed during and after the debate confirmed my view that it was disorganised, poorly chaired, petty and wholly uninspiring.

Brian Paddick and Jenny Jones were largely ignored, or at best drowned out by the two front runners and the chair, Jeremy Paxman, and when there was opportunity for them to speak their points were interrupted or left unanswered.

Where was the real discussion on social housing, irresponsible landlords, youth unemployment, Olympic legacy? These are the issues that I want to hear about, but there was no time amongst the petty sniping about anti-semitism and tax avoidance and general airing of personal slurs.

I’m Labour so Ken Livingstone will be getting my vote on May 3rd and I will be out campaigning for him this weekend. I am in agreement with his core policies of fare cuts, more police and reintroduction of the EMA. London needs a Labour mayor at a time when there is so much poverty and inequality in this, one of the worlds richest and greatest cities.

But I can’t help but think that Labour made a crucial error in nominating Ken for Mayor. I know I am not alone. He was a terrific mayor and I would defend his record to anyone but this election should not have been about personalities, it should not have been an excuse for people to air 30 year grudges against ‘Red Ken’.

And with this morning’s furore over disclosure of taxes, and Ken’s less than helpful statement on why he won’t release his tax returns, the whole campaign is dragged ever further from the real issues. For the next few days the news will be dominated by this one issue, to the exclusion of all else.

London in 2012 is in a challenging place and we needed, and deserved, a serious, issues led campaign which should have given Labour an opportunity to reveal its post-New Labour agenda with a serious, fresh and passionate candidate who could lead the debate away from blustering Boris.

We could have mobilised our army of incredible grassroots activists to send a message to the coalition by turning not only Lib Dem votes to Labour, but Tory ones too.

That just won’t happen now.

Instead I fear that this tit for tat approach from both front runners and running distractions like tax returns will continue until polling opens, and we reds might end up feeling blue on May 4th.

Helen Godwin Tiege is a Labour party campaigner

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20 Responses to “Last night’s mayoral debate was a train wreck, today’s tax developments make things worse”

  1. Ben Cobley says:

    A good article with excellent points. Ken generally did a great job as Mayor before (helped by lashings of Labour government cash) but he carries a lot of baggage and seems to resist getting rid of much of it. Not good.

  2. swatntra says:

    Some good points there. Its about time that we made it a rule that you don’t serve more than 2 terms as Mayor or PM. The trouble is that some people don’t know when they’ve reached their peak and are on the slide. And their best friends won’t tell them. Since Ken is the Labour candidate, I suppose you’re duty bound to vote Labour, because the alternative Parties are pretty hopeless. But Ken is well past his ‘sell by date’ and and even his ‘best before use date’. He has some useful things to offer, but another candidate wouldn’t be budened by ‘history’ which often attaches itself to people who have been in power too long.

  3. Richard T says:

    “Ken’s less than helpful statement on why he won’t release his tax returns”

    ‘Less than helpful’ is certainly one way of putting it.

  4. madasafish says:

    Apparently Ken has now released his returns confirming that – despite his denunciation of those who practise tax avoidance – he practises tax avoidance.

  5. Rufus D says:

    In my neck of the woods the ‘incredible grassroots activists’ are very thin on the ground. Possibly, like me, they will give Livingstone the same support he gave in Tower Hamlets.

    Either way, I am in the anyone but Ken or Boris camp, so I bound to be disappointed!

  6. Seymour says:

    So you’ll vote for Ken because he says he’ll increase the number of police (got to keep the hoi-polloi in their place I suppose) and make the trains run on time.

    He claims to be labour but by his campaign and rhetoric seems to be closer to Galloway.

    Look beyond the rosette, the creature is an abomination.

  7. Mike Hodges Ex Londoner says:

    Hmm, the writer seems to be very interested in the eradication of poverty and inequality and not the possible hypocrisy relating to Ken Livingstone’s business dealings. Could it be that the writer is happier writing about an unachievable utopia rather than running a city in the real world (or the fact that the electorate might find Ken’s actions rather duplicitous)?

    I also wonder about the mindset of the writer, it’s almost as if she’d vote for anyone as long as it was the Labour Party’s candidate. While being a “bit of a right-winger” myself I can also say that I’ve voted Labour, Conservative, Independent, Green and (DEEP BREATH) LibDem. I choose who to vote for based on who I judge to be the best option for our society at the time. Dogmatically voting for one party, no matter the policies offered up or the candidate imposed, strikes me as a recipe for eventual dissolution of our society.

  8. Joe Roberts says:

    I really wonder what on earth is the point of an article like the one above, and the other anti-Livingstone attacks by this site, other than to damage the party.

    I can only imagine that this is a dress rehearsal for the kind of snide and spiteful attacks that Hodges, Hatwal, Marchant, Watt, etc., will be making on Ed Miliband during the General Election campaign via the pages of LabourUncut.

    Ken Livingstone was selected as Labour’s candidate something like eighteen months ago. Livingstone is not ‘my kind of Labour’. Personally I would have preferred someone younger, newer and closer to the political centre ground. But he was the choice of the party membership in London, and it’s the duty of every Labour activist to give 110% support to party candidates. That’s what I would be doing if I was in a London CLP.

    In reality, Mayoral elections tell you little about national politics. It’s all very personality driven. But you can bet that if Boris wins, it will be spun as a stupendous triumph for Cameron. But then you guys would probably be very happy with that.

    You had your chance in the selection contest, just like you had your chance in the leadership contest – you blew it on both occasions. Accept the democratic decision of your party colleagues, learn lessons for next time, and move on. There is an unhealthy, obsessive, monomaniac tone to much of the commentary on this site.

  9. John says:

    don’t agree with the 2 terms view swantantra, as we dont have fixed term parliaments ,and weveral leaders had 18 month governments , the obvious exception Blair and thatcher, alright we didn’t like thatcher but her 3rd victory was one of the most inportant in history as we thought we’ve wrapped it in red ballons got rid of militant and they haven’t got the falklands factor, but the public saw through this, to them we were just as extremist

  10. Desperate Labour guy says:

    The author is deluded into thinking Ken is good because he wears a Labour rosette (today).

    Sadly the self serving Ken is precisely the old kind of old dinosaur that London needs like a hole in the head. Profligate policies that lead nowhere. Helen, you get out there and do your best. London isn’t a deluded blinkered tribal Labour voter. Perhaps you’ll learn something when ken is embarrassed as he should be.

    The only reason that Ken is the candidate is the tribal, the nightmare will be over soon and we’ll have somebody like Oona or David Lammy, either of which would have walked this.

  11. madasafish says:

    We have just had 13 years of a Labour Government and the writer says:

    I’m Labour so Ken Livingstone will be getting my vote on May 3rd….London needs a Labour mayor at a time when there is so much poverty and inequality in this, one of the worlds richest and greatest cities

    The irony of her own words are obviously lost on Helen.

  12. william says:

    Can’t win in Bradford,about to lose in London,at least Blair WON elections.

  13. Jon says:

    How can Ken claim he will reintrouduce EMA?
    It isn’t within the Mayor’s remit.

  14. Morph says:

    “I’m Labour so Ken Livingstone will be getting my vote on May 3rd and I will be out campaigning for him this weekend.”

    You have kind of contained the whole essence of why we non-party types are turning our back on anything to do with the main political parties in this one sentence. What happened to independent thought, considering the issues as well as the attributes (or otherwise) of the candidates ?

    Nope – he’s got a red rosette so he’s the one I’ll vote for.

    Bradford not stirring any thoughts then ?

  15. swatntra says:

    The only reason Blair won 3 eletions is bcause you should have seen who he was up against ie Major Hague and Howard; and the same goes for Thatcher ie Fot and Kinnock a walk over.Wilson won 4 elections again see who he was up against Hume and Heath.; ok Wilson got a bit cocky and Heath got the better of him in ’70 and took us into Europe and gave us decimals which were a both good things. There’s a lesson there I think about choice of Leaders who are credible and can win, but I struggling to fnd it and may need a bit of help.
    The bad side of all this is that its no longer a Parliamenrtary system ie first amongst equals that we have in Britain, but more a Presidential system.If we want a presidential system, then we might as well go the whole way.

  16. madasafish says:



    The “hear no evil, see no evil brigade” are in full flow. Don’t spoil the entertainment of the coming train wreck..

  17. swatntra says:

    I don’t think the average London voter would resonate with Oona King or Lammy; better would have been Dianne Abbott. As someone said you need someone who has a personality and is recognisable, and perhaps an OTT ‘marmite’ character, you either love her or loathe her. Of course Dianne has her faults like on selective education but her tax returns are I think ok, and she had quite a bit of moonlighting work experience in the Media to supplement her meagre earnings in the Commons.

  18. GSilver says:

    “I’m Labour so Ken Livingstone will be getting my vote on May 3rd and I will be out campaigning for him this weekend.”

    and there’s the problem right there. not that ken is avoiding tax that he hypocritically lambastes others for OR that theres always a taint of corrupt practices round the man or that he simply alienates anyone he doesn’t or cant be bothered sucking up to … its that he’s labour so we support him EVEN IF he is a cancer.
    tribal politics is destroying this party!

  19. Clint Spencer says:


    Your so on the money there, tribalism and being wedded to the past has resulted in Ed running the party. My real fear is that we lurch from our IDS to our Hague (Yvette).

    We need to get back to the likes of DM & Peter Watt. Instead we now have talentless dinosaurs like the Ed’s and Yvette doing a poor job. Where is the substance behind Chukka – rising star my bottom.

    I’d like to see a stipulation banning MP’s without experience in either the public or private sector.

  20. Gill Roberts says:

    How can anyone say Livingstone was a good mayor? He squandered money, making absurdly expensive trips abroad, was totally out of touch with the ordinary people, and ran a “jobs for the boys” empire losing hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax payers money into the bargain. His connection with Lee Jasper was dubious, and to claim over £200 for dinner with Ed Balls on more than one occasion gives you the measure of the man… most of the people he represents dont have that money to spend in a week. If he wants to spend this amount of money on a lunch or a dinner he should have paid the bill himself. Yes a real man of the people…. I don’t think so.

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