Posts Tagged ‘2012 London Mayoral election’

Lions were led by donkeys in Labour’s London mayoral election campaign

05/05/2012, 06:30:21 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The phrase was memorably used by Alan Clark to describe the shambolic command of British infantry in the First World War. In the wake of Ken Livingstone’s defeat, ‘lions led by donkeys’, captures the essence of what happened to Labour in London’s mayoral election.

Thousands of Labour activists ordered over the top in the cause of a flawed figurehead, as part of a doomed campaign that the top brass had privately written-off several months ago.

In the carnage of a London loss, where Labour’s candidate under-performed his party’s Assembly vote by 43,480 votes or 5% on first preferences, it can be hard to disentangle the reasons for defeat.

But three distinct reasons stand out: the suicidal candidate selection process, Ed Miliband’s judgement and, of course, the candidate himself.

At the root of Labour’s London problem was a ludicrous decision on the timetable for candidate selection

In the aftermath of the general election defeat in May 2010, while the party reeled, the NEC decided that this was the best time to pick a mayoral candidate – 24 months before the election.

Gordon Brown’s resignation forced the timetable for a leadership election. Running the mayoral selection in parallel was entirely voluntary.

It meant potential candidates from the front bench such as Alan Johnson were unprepared. The selection process was railroaded through just days after the general election, before many MPs could collect their thoughts after a bruising election contest, let alone raise the funds to fight.

It didn’t have to be this way. In 2000 the Labour selection wasn’t concluded till three months before the election, while Boris Johnson only got the nod just seven months before the 2008 election, and that didn’t seem to do him any harm.

But when the NEC made their decision, sanctioned by acting leader Harriet Harman’s team, they knew all of this.

It was part of the charade of democracy Labour frequently conducts on its candidate selections. This was a stitch-up, pure and simple to help Ken Livingstone – the candidate who had been running since he lost the mayoralty in 2008.


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After the London mayoral election, Labour has a new campaign rule book

04/05/2012, 07:00:47 AM

by Jonathan Roberts

In March I wrote an open letter to Ken Livingstone – where I promised to abstain from the mayoral election.  It is a promise I kept, but for the avoidance of doubt, I proudly voted Labour for the London Assembly.

Now, the 2012 election campaign has drawn to a close.  As a consequence of the hard work of countless Labour activists, we have seen hundreds of new Labour councillors elected as a sign that Labour is back, its reputation making good progress down the road of recovery.  From Plymouth to Birmingham, new Labour councils will help make a difference across the country.

It is a physical manifestation not just of the unpopularity of this Government, but also of Ed Miliband’s improving leadership – a vindication of the belief that Labour is most in touch with the needs of ordinary people in difficult times.

But there is a moral threat already placed upon this welcome return to Labour’s electoral competitiveness, because the London mayoral election has changed the game of political campaigning forever.

There was once an unwritten rule book, a code of conduct that governed Labour activity to ensure high standards of integrity and consistency were met.  Labour activists have always claimed a higher moral standard, and revelled in holding the supposed immorality of our opponents to account.  But we now have a hypocrisy problem.

It is truly dreadful that we have a Conservative prime minister willing to make discriminatory attacks on the basis of age.  But apparently it is righteous and just to support discriminatory “posh-boy” attacks on the basis of class.

It is disgraceful that Conservative policies attack the disabled. But apparently it is fair and appropriate for Labour to mock a Conservative MP because of his cerebral palsy.

Hypocrisy can be seen by all but those who choose to be blind.


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Break out the nose pegs and vote for Livingstone

18/04/2012, 03:12:48 PM

by David Talbot

You would be forgiven for thinking that the only segment of the United Kingdom that is to vote this May is London. But on May 3rd elections will take place in 180 councils across the country, with 5000 seats up for grabs. Over the Easter break I duly volunteered to distribute leaflets in my home CLP back in rural Warwickshire. Amidst the endless open countryside, hamlets and villages I could not have been more removed from the hectic London political scene.

Until, that is, I stopped in the hamlet of Ardens Grafton and frequented the sole shop. A picture of Ken Livingstone weeping greeted me as I picked up the front page of the Guardian. Much has been said about the authenticity, or not, of the performance since. But with accompanying prose underneath the picture spilling over to page two, and a double-page spread adjoining pages seven and eight, it confirmed, if nothing else, just quite how London-centric our media is. It also focused the mind on the London mayoral election ahead – and what those with serious doubts about Livingstone should do come that Thursday in early May.

I am seemingly in a large rump of Labour voters who do not view Ken Livingstone favourably. YouGov put the figure at 31%, ComRes 17%. In a tight election these numbers are more than enough to secure significant defeat for the Labour candidate.

The charge sheet against Ken Livingstone has been heavily trailed in recent weeks. Commentators ranging from Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian, Philip Collins in the Times, Nick Cohen in the Observer and, more troublingly, the Jewish Chronicle have voiced serious concerns about our candidate. Coupled with the usual antagonists; Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph is his usual obsessed self, and the Evening Standard, who have effortlessly slipped back to where they left off in 2008; vast swathes of the media, and ordinary Labour members, are, to put it politely, at best lukewarm about Livingstone.

Ken Livingstone is the problem of this campaign. To pretend otherwise is to, wilfully, miss the point. At a time when Labour has opened up the biggest lead over the Tories since the aftermath of the general election, Livingstone is trailing the London Labour vote by 6%, whilst Boris Johnson is outperforming the Tories in the capital by 10%.


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Livingstone’s scripted tears

13/04/2012, 08:00:54 AM

by Atul Hatwal

16/04/12 10.30 Update: Fair’s fair: it looks like the party press officer who told the Guardian that the PEB used actors, was wrong. We know that some weren’t and the Guardian piece was at least partially incorrect.

So the record needs to be set straight for this article. It looks likely that the people featured in the PEB weren’t professional actors, they were supporters. It is certainly the case that no-one has contradicted the Livingstone team’s contention that they were supporters.

But whether these were actors or carefully selected supporters, the central point of the piece remains the same: to cry in response to a video montage of your own supporters, reading your script , about how much they want you to be mayor, that you have already seen, is more Pyongyang than London.

13/04/12 10:51 Update: Well, there’s been quite the flap following this piece. The Livingstone campaign are resolutely denying that any of the people in the PEB are actors. This is the relevant section from the Guardian on which the article is based:

On Wednesday Ken Livingstone revealed his emotional side, sniffling at a launch of his new party political broadcast. “The people you saw on the screen represent hundreds of thousands of Londoners who desperately want a mayor who is going to make their life easier in this city,” Ken said, as Ed Miliband patted him on the back. For sure, the broadcast is slicker than anything his team has previously produced; it features a boxer, a groundsman, one posh woman and an extremely cute baby. But who exactly are they? The Labour party confessed yesterday that the Londoners are all actors – but actors who support Ken. Of the crying, it said: “It was very genuine. It really was.”

Clearly there has been some form of breakdown in communication between the Livingstone campaign and the Labour party press office. The issue at the heart of this article is authenticity. The key question is: were  the people in the PEB were scripted?

If their words were drafted by the campaign team then it is disingenuous to claim these are the authentic responses of ordinary Londoners that prompted a heartfelt reaction from Livingstone. If their words were their own, then patently that is more powerful.

At the moment it looks like team Ken are saying that people were scripted. We will update as we receive more information.


Another week, another new depth plumbed in the mayoral campaign.

In yesterday’s Guardian diary, there was a little snippet about Labour’s latest party election broadcast (PEB).

For those who haven’t seen it, the PEB is very effective. Engaging and well-paced, above all it shows rather than tells. It features Londoners speaking about their issues, directly into camera, edited tightly together. The climax at the end where they each ask Ken to win for them carries some real emotional weight.

I’m no fan of Labour’s candidate but even I was impressed.

Until, that is, I read the Guardian diary. This told me that the plaintive and persuasive Londoners were in fact all actors. Not a boxer, a mother, a groundsman or a businessman. Just actors, hired to do a job.  “Labour supporting actors” is how the party press office described them, as if this somehow helped.

This mini-revelation robs the PEB of its authenticity. It remains a very good piece of political communication, but watching the broadcast again, knowing that these folk were shipped in from London’s version of central casting, drains the emotion out of the piece.

Oh well. “Disappointing” was my take. And then I thought, “hang on.”

Most people will have seen this photo of Ken Livingstone, overcome by emotion, crying at the screening of his election broadcast.

At the time the explanation given to reporters was that Ken was moved by the genuine words of Londoners and the responsibility he felt to win the election for them.

Stirring stuff. Shame it was rubbish.

The actual situation in the room was this: Livingstone was crying after watching a series of actors that had been carefully selected by his team, read out lines that his writers had penned, in a style directed by his staff. He knew that these were not typical Londoners. He knew that this was his script.

But still the tears flowed.


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Livingstone NIC-ed on tax avoidance

06/04/2012, 08:04:03 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The hand to hand combat of a mayoral campaign is hardly the ideal environment for sober reflection, but for the Labour party, it’s time to have a long hard think.

After yesterday’s partial release of the mayoral contenders’ tax and earnings details, there is now a threat that Ken Livingstone will not just lose the London election, but will seriously damage the national party in the process.

The full nature of this danger is not quite apparent yet. The media focus over the last 24hours has been on examining the total tax paid by each of the candidates, looking at who paid the most. This is understandable but misses the point.

The issue is not about the absolute amounts handed over to HMRC, but whether these figures demonstrate that the candidates have, or have not, lived up to their rhetoric.

It’s about trust, not finance and for one of Labour’s most high profile figures, who has volubly railed against tax avoidance, the figures are damning.

In 2010/11, setting aside pension contributions, Ken Livingstone received 92% of his income – £63,333 – through dividends and just 8% or £5,700 through a normal salary where tax was deducted on a pay as you earn (PAYE) basis.

This approach is a standard and perfectly legal way of drawing down money from a company and is used by hundreds of thousands of people for one simple reason: it avoids national insurance contributions (NICs).

Dividends are not liable for NICs, so being paid principally through dividends reduces or completely removes NICs payments.

In 2010/11 the threshold to start paying NICs was £5,720 per year and as if by magic, Ken Livingstone’s PAYE income for the year was £20 below the level where any NICs would have to be paid.

Fancy that.

The only reason £5,700 was paid as PAYE income at all is that that there needs to be a  level of PAYE earnings each year above a minimum threshold (£5,044 in 2010/11) to  build eligibility for certain benefits. For example, the state pension, for which Ken Livingstone qualified, during 2010/11.

Again, to be clear, this is not tax evasion, and it’s certainly not illegal, but avoiding NICs is tax avoidance for most voters.


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

05/04/2012, 12:54:16 PM

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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London deserves a better mayoral campaign

05/04/2012, 07:55:31 AM

by Peter Watt

Does anyone outside the heady world of politics actually care about the London mayoral election?

Setting aside the train wreck of last night’s debate on Newsnight, the mayoralty is one of the highest profile positions in British politics and carries the biggest personal mandate for any politician in Europe, bar the French presidency. It should matter.

The reason I ask is that my 18 year old daughter (18 last week) received her poll card recently.  I overheard her chatting to a friend about the fact that she could now vote which she was pleased about.  But then she said that she wasn’t actually sure if she should bother voting at all.  So I decided that I would tackle this appalling apathy head on and explain the importance of voting and the particular merits of voting in the London mayoral election.

But I decided, I had better marshal my thoughts first – you know what tricky buggers teenagers can be if you’re not prepared.  Anyway, I worked up what I hoped would be a concise set of arguments that set out the importance of democracy and of voting.  People have died for the right to vote; having your say; preserving freedoms and so on.  It wasn’t exactly Mandelaesque but it wasn’t bad.   But then I began thinking about the reasons to specifically vote in the London mayoral election and I struggled.

This has to be one of the least inspiring election campaigns that I have ever witnessed.  It seems to boil down to: vote for Ken because he isn’t Boris or vote for Boris because he isn’t Ken.  Unless you want to vote for some bloke called Brian whose most endearing feature seems to be that he isn’t called Boris or Ken.  I mean beyond that, what else is there?

According to Ken’s website, he is going to give all Londoners a “Fare Deal” by cutting transport costs.  Well that’s good.  But is that it?  According to Boris’s website the main reason to vote for him is to re-elect him.  Not even a fare cut from Boris then.  But to be fair, if the opportunity to re-elect Boris is not enough to excite you then if you click through to the main site then you learn that by voting for Boris you can cut waste, create an Olympic legacy and…to be honest I got bored.  It’s not really the stuff of political legend is it?


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How Boris calling Ken a “f***ing liar” will play out

03/04/2012, 04:56:10 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Politics is an uptight profession. Displays of genuine emotion by our leaders chills the blood of advisers and apparatchiks. Control is lost, the roulette wheel is spinning and anything can happen next.

Even if there isn’t a total meltdown, loss of composure alone is a sign of political weakness and opens up a line of attack on temperament and suitability for office.

Reports of this morning’s nose-to-nose confrontation between Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson will have initially sent the Tories into a tailspin. Labour tweeters duly piled on  immediately following the exchange to push the line that Livingstone had touched a raw nerve in Johnson, who was seriously rattled.

But emotion isn’t always bad. Sometimes, when a politician shows genuine feeling, it reflects authenticity rather than weakness.

Think Hilary Clinton’s teary performance at the diner in New Hampshire in the 2008 race for the Democratic nomination . The immediate assumption in the press pack following her appearance was that she had cracked under the pressure. She was weak.

The voters disagreed. For the electorate, she had just become human and following her victory in New Hampshire the race was prolonged for months.

Or John Prescott in the 2001 general election campaign. When that mulleted moron threw an egg at him, Prescott’s reaction was natural and understandable, he punched him.

I can clearly remember the unbridled panic that gripped the Labour side in the minutes and hours after the punch, as well as the glee among Tory campaigners at this turn of events. At bare minimum, the Tories felt this demonstrated JP’s unsuitability for office.

Wrong again. For the voters, John Prescott was behaving like a normal person – the type that polls constantly say people want to see more of in politics.

As with Prescott, the key to the denouement for this morning’s fracas will be the substance – was  Boris Johnson in the right?


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Ken Livingstone’s crumbling Labour flank

23/03/2012, 08:52:50 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Earlier this week YouGov released their latest London mayoral poll. While Boris Johnson’s 49%-41% lead on first preferences was widely reported, some of the most striking results were lost in the news vortex of the budget.

Chief among these is the scale of Ken Livingstone’s problem with Labour supporters: 31% say they will not vote for him in the mayoral election.

Just weeks before the election, almost 1 in 3 Labour supporters are refusing to back the party’s candidate for mayor.

In comparison, Boris Johnson’s core support is firmer. 86% of Conservative backers say they will vote for him with 14% either supporting other candidates or undecided.

The impact of this differential in party supporters’ commitment to their candidate is critical for the mayoral race: it translates into an 8% boost in Boris Johnson’s overall total.

And 8% is, coincidentally, the size of Johnson’s latest lead over Livingstone.

The bad news for Labour is that this problem has been building all year. The graph below shows how Ken Livingstone has progressively bled support from Labour backers while Johnson has consolidated his vote amongst Conservatives.


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An open letter to Ken Livingstone

08/03/2012, 01:00:47 PM

by Jonathan Roberts

Dear Ken,

I write as a Labour party and trade union member.  I have spent many evenings in dusty, cold community centres with left of centre colleagues arguing over the minutes of last month’s branch meetings.  I have walked more miles than I care to remember on the Labour doorstep.  I have stuffed so many envelopes that I feel as though I’ve single-handedly kept my postman in employment.

I do it because I believe Labour values can help people.  But I am not, now, doing any of these things for you.

Your supporters will say I’m disloyal to the Labour Party, but don’t seem to mind you campaigning against our candidate in Tower Hamlets.

Your supporters cheered you when you called tax avoiders “rich bastards”, but they don’t seem to mind the £50,000 you have allegedly avoided yourself.

Your supporters criticise Boris Johnson as a “part time Mayor” for churning out a weekly article for the Telegraph, but they don’t seem to mind that you were an MP and a writer for the Independent during substantial parts of your own Mayoral tenure.

Your supporters sing about how you speak the truth, but don’t seem to mind how independent fact-checking organisations regularly describe your claims as “fiction”.

Your supporters were delighted when you announced you would reintroduce the EMA for London, giving hope to thousands of kids, but they don’t seem to mind that the Mayor has no power to reintroduce EMA at all.  Nor do they seem to mind you making a promise you knew full well you would be unlikely to deliver on.

But do you know what Ken?  I mind.  I do.  Your relentless cynicism and negativity is matched only by your hypocrisy.  And I mind all three.


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