Thursday, April 26, 2012
London mayoral elections - Back Boris to kick Ken
Whilst not as dire as the French elections, it is clear that there is no candidate for the London mayoralty who supports local government doing less and getting out of the way of people.
The line up ranges from a Uruguayan candidate for the fascist BNP, to a former public servant standing as an independent, an anti-car Green, gay former cop Liberal Democrat and then of course the two main candidates - the Marxist Islamophile Ken Livingstone (George Galloway-lite) and the bumbling Tory toff Boris Johnson.
UKIP has a candidate who is campaigning on having a tax for visitors to London, a cap on immigration, free parking and other policies that the Mayor has no legal power to implement. All this is a plain insult to my intelligence.
What I WANT in a Mayor is some fairly clear policies based on what the Mayor can actually do. The role has some clear powers in transport, housing, policing, economic development and emergency planning.
For emergency planning and policing, I want competence, commitment to accountability and with policing in particular a focus on real crimes, crimes against people and property, and to promote a culture that respects the public's right to go about its business in peace, but which takes a firm line defending people from the initiation of force. This includes assisting with national agencies against terrorist threats. It means not letting people riot day after day, it means not letting people "occupy" private property in mobs as a "protest", it also means being accountable when members of the police assault innocent members of the public.
Beyond that, I don't see a long term role for the Mayor. Economic development should be about getting out of the way, lobbying central government and local boroughs to get out of the way. The Mayor should be an advocate and promoter of the city, but not be trying to plan it. For starters the Mayor shouldn't be opposed to expansion of Heathrow (or any of London's airports if the airport owners can fund it privately).
Housing? Well the one thing London does need is a Mayor to get out of the way and eliminate urban development limits within Greater London, and set free land for private development. Local government housing schemes have long been breeding grounds for anti-social behaviour, attracting desperation and criminality rather than aspiration and community. The ridiculous overly prescriptive planning rules that stifle development and inflate housing prices must be scrapped.
Then there is transport. You'll know I could write a post about this on itself, but that needs a wholesale shift. The tube should be privatised, bus companies should receive the fare revenue paid on buses, the congestion charge should be expanded and made more sophisticated to replace council tax funding of roads and to fund a programme of major pavement renewals, the backlog of sign and line maintenance and targeted intersection and corridor improvements. All traffic light controlled intersections should have pedestrian crossing lights. Finally, private enterprise should be asked to investigate new road corridors to be toll funded, for both new Thames Crossings and new arterial routes to open up south London.
Finally, I want a Mayor who will reduce council tax, who will shrink his role to policing, emergency services and advocacy. For whom planning means property rights and transport means getting from central government enough of the share of motoring taxes paid from using London roads to pay for their maintenance and to maintain spending commitments to public transport upgrades.
Nobody comes near any of that. Given the UKIP candidate doesn't even remotely dabble in any of this, it comes down to whether there is a qualitative difference between the two leading candidates.
Boris Johnson is the incumbent. His mayoralty has been characterised by pet projects for bikes, buses, a cable car, giving everyone over 60 free public transport and building "affordable homes".
On the plus side he has taken a tough line on crime which has achieved some results, even though early management of the riots was disastrous. He's improved management of utilities digging up roads and put some money into improving traffic management more generally. He cut wasteful spending on media, froze council tax and gave up first class air travel (Ken liked a first class trip to Cuba when he was Mayor). Finally, he is proposing a 10% cut in council tax over the next four years, it's not much, but it is in the right direction.
Ken Livingstone is trying to regain the Mayoralty from Boris, having had it from 2000-2008. Livingstone is promising a public transport fare cut to be funded from the surplus in the Transport for London accounts that has resulted from deferred capital spending on new tube trains. A surplus that will disappear in one year, but he insists it can be afforded. He is promising to resell electricity bought by the Greater London Authority to Londoners at a huge discount, as if running a massive retail utility is without cost. He wants to set up a government real estate agency, and even introduce a welfare benefit for young people who stay at school. Ken loves being the big man for outside politics he is nothing.
Ken is an expert at spending other people's money. He spent £10,000 a year on subscriptions to the communist newspaper the "Morning Star" and spent money on first class junkets to Havana and Caracas to visit Marxist dictators. He is warm towards both regimes, ignoring the Castro brothers' use of mental hospitals to incarcerate political prisoners or Hugo Chavez's bullying of media and supporters of the opposition. His use of the London Development Agency as Ken's "bank" to back causes he supported, his support for Lee "black people can't be racist" Jasper, who also said Anders Breivik has similarities to Boris.
I couldn't care less about the allegations of Ken using a company to reduce his tax liability, except of course it proves his hypocrisy, as does his continued use of private healthcare whilst being a strong advocate of the NHS. I do care about his embrace of Islamist hate preachers and wanting London to be a "beacon of Islam". If Boris wanted London to be a beacon of Christianity wanting all non-Christians to understand the religion, he'd be laughed at for being some US Republican style religious zealot.
Ken Livingstone seeks to court the votes of gay and lesbian Londoners, and claims to care for the rights of women and the oppressed, but then worked for Press TV - the overseas propaganda TV channel of the Islamic Republic of Iran - a regime that executes homosexuals and rape victims. Even Labour stalwarts like Sir Alan Sugar are opposing him, following Livingstone saying he didn't expect rich Jews to vote for him.
Ken cites "achievements" of his time leading London in the early 1980s - when he called capitalists "filthy" as recently as 1992.
He makes it too easy. Vote for Boris to keep this vile little man out of power. Boris is no libertarian and far from perfect, but he is promising less local government and he wont be appeasing Islamists, communists or funding his radical racist mates. Finally, Ken has said he wont stand again if he loses this time - let's hope that's a promise he can keep. Besides, who wouldn't prefer Boris at the Olympic opening ceremony quoting Latin and bumbling his way informally through it all, over the nasal whiny forked tongue envy peddling friend of George Galloway.