Ken Livingstone: Past and Future

Articles, LondonUnlockedEditor

Ken Livingstone has changed London dramatically since becoming Mayor. Few politicians would have had the gumption to campaign on a pledge to bring in the Congestion Charge, or to brazenly go ahead and reverse the privatisation of certain rail services into London, whilst agreeing for contracts with the private sector for other areas of the transport network.

That said, it is difficult to judge what drives the current Mayor more: pragmatism, or tribal politics?

LondonUnlocked is not yet in a position to make a judgement on our preferred candidate for Mayor, though we can be clear about our strongest concerns about Ken Livingstone's administration - its lack of accountability, penchant for propaganda, and the difficulty which it faces in accepting criticism. These concerns are playing out in an increasingly vitriolic election campaign.

That said, it is interesting to highlight some of Mr Livingstone's recent pledges for the transport network:

Both of these are worthy pledges, but must be placed against the context of his past achievements.

Channel 4 has begun to offer an excellent fact check service, and this week have examined Mr Livingstone's claims of cheaper buses and only marginally more expensive tube journeys. The result is hardly a ringing endorsement:

On balance, bus and tube fares are pretty similar to when Ken Livingstone took office - although bus fares have seen above-inflation increases in recent years. It's a different picture for those who pay in cash, however. This is a smaller number of people, admittedly: just over 3 per cent of tube journeys and two per cent of bus journeys. But for these people - who may be tourists unfamiliar with the city, or someone on a low income without much money to load onto a card - far from staying the same, some single fares have doubled in the past few years.

This readiness to bend figures, and almost complete unaccountability, is of massive concern. Transparency needs to be the watchword of any new administration, be Mr Livingstone at its head or not.

One has to wonder, when reading on BBC News that over £500,000 has been raised by the Low Emissions Zone since the 4th Feb, just how much of this money is from firms who attempt to comply but are unable to do so, as we have covered before.

Londoners and business need clarity, and to know that the Mayor works for them. At the moment it is not altogether clear that this is the case which is perhaps the issue which Mr Livingstone needs to address the most.