The Two Sides of Ken Livingstone

Articles, Election 2008Editor

Slightly out of the transport remit of this site, but fascinating nonetheless, both the New Statesman and Guardian carry contrasting pieces about Ken Livingstone's suitability for a third term. The Guardian's piece, by Dave Hill, is generally pro-Ken, and certainly anti-Boris:

No other major Labour figure had a clue how to outwit the enemy ideologues - he mastered the media game long before Peter Mandelson came on the scene - and in supporting fair play for women and menaced minorities he blazed a trail for a new code of social civility that has improved not only London but also Britain as a whole. Oh, he has his flaws. But the "charming snake", as a flushed lady Tory once described him, has a formidable record. London is his to lose. A flash of the old, forgotten style and a few fresh policies should put The Blond back in the box where he belongs.

Meanwhile, Martin Bright in the New Statesman writes about his experience in producing a Dispatches programme on Ken Livingstone's record, detailing the obfuscation he faced. His conclusions about the Mayor are quite different from those of Dave Hill:

Like me, many of the people we spoke to had previously been supporters of the mayor, but are now unhappy with the way things have turned out. Perhaps it is the institution of mayor itself which is at fault, in which all executive power devolved from national government resides in the person who holds the post of mayor.

Accountability is a key part of the job for the Mayorality and quite frankly there is now little of it to be found. The Assembly is largely toothless, and Ken's control of his budgets almost absolute. Claims that he is accountable to the electorate is also something of a farce given his powerful press operation and ability to shape the story.

LondonUnlocked has highlighted a few cases of this unaccountability in the past: the decision to not to make public the basic commercial agreement with Barclays to allow them to market the OnePulse card in the tube and the 'tooth-pulling' exercise in attempting to clear up the changes to traffic-light phasing being but two such examples.

Full accountability means that better decisions will be made due to the scrutiny of the public arena, and errors learned from. At the moment there is no facility for this, and London suffers because of it. Whoever wins the Mayoral election should learn that there is a taste for openness now, and that the past practices of Ken Livingstone's Mayoralty need to change.