Young dynamism and old pragmatism, Shelly Asquith makes the case for Ken

"This isn’t just Red Ken anymore; it’s Green Ken, Pink Ken; Ken the chameleon."

When I heard Ken would be standing for Labour as London Mayor in 2012, I was thrilled. It didn’t even occur to me that there may be  an alternative contender. But now the pantomime of Oh Yes We Kens and Oona You Cants has started, I feel we need a reminder of why Ken’s still the man for the job.

I’m too young to remember Red Ken. Ken, the maverick leader of the GLC, reviled by Thatcher and hailed by the unions. But I do remember King Ken:  trouper of the Thames; boss of the bendy bus; guardian of a truly Greater London.

In all of his 8 years as mayor, Ken transformed the city. He encouraged sustainable lifestyles with the congestion charge, a hugely extended bus service, low emissions zone and London Energy Partnership. Livingstone testified his commitment to public transport at a lower cost in his fight against PPP, his plans for the Cross-rail scheme and a reduced price service for students and OAPs.

Contrast this with London since Boris took over: fares have sky-rocketed across public transport; train line expansion is under threat; the western extension of the congestion charge has been scrapped.  While inner-city London dwellers are penalised, wealthier commuters get a cheaper deal.

Forming dual ventures with Eco Cities in China, Ken lead the way towards London becoming Europe’s green capital. If re-elected, Ken will protect London’s green belt while extending affordable housing projects, something the city has seen slashed since 2008. He also pledges to improve insulation in every building in London over ten years.

Ken champions diversity. He pioneered London’s anti-racism and Muslim, Jewish and International festivals, and oversaw the reduction of racial attacks in London by a third. Ken also did a remarkable job of uniting the city after the tragic 7/7 bombings with his We Are Londoners campaign.

In a bid to re-establish transparency and accountability at City Hall, he will reinstate the regular press conferences that Boris has scrapped. Ken also wants to protect London’s funding on policing and increase investment in training young people through apprenticeships.

A regular at London Pride and the man behind Britain’s first register for same sex couples, Livingstone is a true trouper for LGBT rights. By launching the first ever Partnerships Register in the UK, an index later adopted by many other local authorities, Ken helped create an environment that led to the Civil Partnership Act. He now calls for the extension of this policy to bring in full gay marriage.

A champion for environmentalism, gay rights and diversity; this isn’t just Red Ken anymore; it’s Green Ken, Pink Ken; Ken the chameleon.

2008 was a time when Labour support was at an all-time low, and Ken’s loss was a product of national disillusionment. But as the Lib Cons’ bleak budget cuts creep in, by 2012 we ought to see a lot of support defecting back to Labour. Ken has fire in his belly, and London in his heart. A passionate politician and ‘gray beard’ gladiator, there is no better candidate to stand up for the city against the aggressive cuts agenda of the coalition government.

While Ken may be the mature candidate, his visions are as voracious as ever: this is backed-up by the number of young MPs and members backing him, and the campaign itself, incorporating young dynamism with old pragmatism.

Ken Livingstone has repeatedly proved himself to be a politician of the very highest calibre, not only in vision, but in his ability to get to grips with detail and push through policy. Based on Ken’s track record, London Labour would be fools not to vote him in again while we still have the chance.

I say go get ‘em, Ken. The world, or at least this city, is your Oyster card.

Shelly Asquith is a freelance writer and a Labour activist.

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4 Responses to “Young dynamism and old pragmatism, Shelly Asquith makes the case for Ken”


    From Kevin Hutchens, Stonehaven-I am not a London resident ,but Ken did a great job for the GLC and a great job as London Mayor . He well deserves Labour Party members support and could help win London for Labour again.

  2. Boris says:

    You’re right, Ken will put up the toughest fight against my bid, and against our darling coalition government. Therefore, he is the worst contender, and you should all vote for Ooseless Oona.

    Mayor of Londinium & poster boy for pretence

  3. John Pierce says:

    ‘Ken… the world, or at least this city, is your Oyster card’

    Absolute genius! #yesweken

  4. Jimmy says:

    @Kevin: Ken won’t help win London for Labour, he WILL win it!

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