Ken Livingstone is often accused of populism by his opponents and detractors yet from discussions on our forum in recent weeks today’s news of a Â£25 congestion charge for heavily polluting vehicles won’t be popular with many Londoners.
In a recent letter to the Evening Standard I said the following on the subject of Livingstone’s claimed ‘populism’:
“He’s routinely accused of populism yet the biggest idea any of the would-be candidates can come up with is to scrap the congestion charge they claim he introduced against the will of Londoners.
In drawing attention to the issue they constantly highlight that Livingstone is prepared to make those tough decisions and leave themselves looking like the ‘say anything to win’ candidate.”
By no credible application of logic can populism be characterised as charging car owners to drive them through the capital. Equally it’s hard to see who the rising cost of cash fares on buses and tubes which make the Oyster card all but mandatory is making the Mayor popular with.
Mayor Livingstone may have his faults, not least an unending willingness to make ill-considered comments which fuel the tabloid beast and detract from serious comment on the Capital, but it’s not clear populism is one of them.
None of which detracts from the rightness of the decision to charge those who pollute the environment more if they can’t be persuaded to act more responsibly.