As Labour Party members receive their ballot papers and start voting this week on who will become the party’s 2012 candidate for Mayor of London, contenders Ken Livingstone and Oona King answer 10 questions on what party members and Londoners could expect from their respective Mayoralties.
Q1.The majority of the next Mayoral term looks set to take place against the backdrop of a coalition government which excludes Labour. What experience do you have of working with politicians from other parties and how would this help you deliver for Londoners?
Oona: Democratic politics, even within the same party is about consensus building and working with people of differing opinions to deliver the best for people. Not everything the Coalition Government will do will be bad. It looks like, for example, that it will be Coalition legislation to introduce elected chairs of police authorities will finally force Boris Johnson to do his job and chair the Metropolitan Police Authority.
I will be a champion for London and strive to get the best deal I can for Londoners from the Government, in line with the city’s contribution to UK GDP. But where their policies harm Londoners, like capping housing benefit, cutting police numbers and cancelling a large number of schools building projects I will campaign loudly against them. What else would you expect?
Ken: The Mayor has to speak for the interests of London as a whole, transcending party boundaries and putting London first.
As Mayor of London I worked with politicians and Londoners from across the political spectrum to win £39bn funding for London, win the argument for Crossrail and the Olympics and safer neighbourhood teams. If I was elected in 2012 I would work with all politicians in London who are committed to a progressive future for the capital.
My track-record is clear. First, in terms of elections, I have been able to appeal to voters beyond Labour’s most loyal supporters. At the last election the Green Party called for a second-preference vote for my candidacy and Respect decided not to stand against me, because of my record on the war, international peace and justice, and issues like tuition fees.
Second, as Mayor I had to work with other parties in order to guarantee the delivery of London’s budgets – such as the Greens, with whom I was able to work closely over a range of issues, such as road safety, nuclear trains, cycling, the gas guzzler charge and the living wage. But this was not simply expediency based on pragmatic concerns about budgets. I took the view that no one party has a monopoly on having all the right answers and I wanted to draw on the talents of those who had a contribution to make, whether Labour, LibDem or Green.
Indeed, where there was agreement with Conservative members about issues of importance to their constituents – such as a local bus route or traffic hotspot – I was prepared to put aside party differences to resolve these. I held many constructive meetings with constituency members of the Assembly on this basis and I would want to do so again.
Q2: If your election in 2012 followed Labour victories (or Labour dominated coalitions) in Scotland and Wales, how would you work with those other devolved administrations to help make the case for your party at the next General Election
Ken: It’s not simply a question of working with Labour colleagues, but working with devolved authorities and big cities around England, Wales and Scotland where we have a shared agenda – for example over affordable housing.
Devolution to Wales, Scotland and London is different in each case but as Mayor I sought to establish good relationships with Scottish and Welsh Labour colleagues. I retained good contacts with Scotland after the change of administration. I will want to build up these relationships in order to get the best for London. I don’t see London as being in competition with Wales, Scotland or the major cities around Britain and I will aim to work closely with them where we have a shared agenda.
Oona: The devolved elections, particularly in London, will demonstrate whether we are on course for a national victory or not. The Outer London areas I have to win in are exactly the kind of seats Labour has to win if it is to get back into government, areas like Enfield North and Brent Central.
It will be vital for us to stand up and support the new leader to deliver national victory for the Labour party. If we are successful in all three devolved elections it will be vital that we are willing to share our campaigning and policy experience to win back the voters we’ve lost across the country.
Q3: If you were elected as Mayor would you voluntarily cede any powers to the Assembly – for example giving them a power of veto on Mayoral appointments – and would your willingness to do so depend on Labour being the biggest party on the Assembly?
Oona: The Mayoralty and Assembly are 10 years old, I think it’s about time to look at what’s working and what’s not. I think genuine democratic accountability should be above party politics. But it’s also vital that we bring ordinary Londoners in to decision making. Post expenses and cronyism there’s a cynicism about politics and we need to ensure that politicians and political institutions work for the people not the other way round.
Ken: The Assembly should scrutinise and the Mayor should be the executive. I don’t favour taking powers off the Assembly that rightly sit with them and whilst I don’t presently have any plans to change the constitutional settlement between the Mayor and Assembly I am very clear that functions that are best placed to sit with the Assembly should do so.
I will strive to make sure that whilst the Mayor should have more power over strategic matters, the Assembly should be a strong body holding the Mayor to account. I’ll certainly aim to be more straightforward with the Assembly than the current Mayor who has a record of failing to answer their questions.
Q4: The Mayoral system doesn’t allow for a leader of the opposition. If you’re selected as Labour’s candidate you’ll be shut out of the scrutiny of the Mayor within City Hall where it matters most, how will you work with Labour Assembly Members to develop your campaign and bring your criticisms of Boris Johnson’s administration to the floor of the chamber?
Ken: The work of the Assembly members who scrutinise Boris Johnson is growing in impact with every passing week and my job, if selected as the Labour candidate, will be to work to build on that.
I will aim to give voice to the millions of Londoners who reject the agenda of cuts and higher fares being imposed by a Conservative mayor and the new Con-Dem government.
Having a candidate selected at this point, just under two years before the election gives us the opportunity to co-ordinate between the many Londoners, community groups, trade unions and politicians who want to put London first rather than slash services or simply stand back and abandon London’s interests.
If I am selected as Labour’s candidate I will use every opportunity to shine a spotlight on Boris Johnson’s record and policies, continuing to work closely with Labour Assembly members to scrutinise Boris Johnson. I will be using the Freedom of Information Act and other tools to put pressure on Boris Johnson’s administration.
The fact that of the eight Labour Assembly Members I have been endorsed by seven – Len Duvall, Jennette Arnold, Joanne McCartney, Val Shawcross, Joanne McCartney, Nicky Gavron, Murad Qureshi and Navin Shah – means we will be able to get off to a strong start.
I also welcome the fact that the opposition groups on the Assembly have worked together on a number of key issues and I will support that co-ordination where there is clear agreement.
Much more needs to be done to encourage more Londoners to scrutinise the Mayor and get involved in the work of the GLA through People’s Question Time meetings and other public meetings.
During the Labour selection campaign I have focused on some of the areas where Boris is failing including housing, fares and policing cuts. I launched a major campaign in June against Boris’s police cuts and took a petition with thousands of signatures to City Hall. On behalf of the signatories I presented the petition at a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority and spoke out against Tory plans to cut 455 police officers. I intend to continue to seek to represent the views of many Londoners in this way.
Boris has hidden from scrutiny wherever he has been able to. He promised to take responsibility for crime and policing by chairing the MPA but gave that up after a year. He promised greater accountability but cancelled the system of weekly press conferences at City Hall. When I launched my campaign I pledged to reinstate weekly press conferences to enable the media to directly question the Mayor.
Oona: I don’t think this would be very complicated. Labour Assembly Members would share my interest as Labour’s Mayoral candidate – to hold Boris Johnson to account and to show Londoners that the Conservatives have failed to deliver. We’ll need to meet regularly and share information. I also look forward to working with Assembly Members in developing policies and my manifesto for London.
What I don’t want to be is a candidate who only works with a tight circle of hand-picked advisers. We have had too much ‘know-all’, top-down politics in London already.
Q5: The Mayor has considerable powers of patronage, how would you as Mayor ensure any appointments were transparent and, where appropriate, fairly represented the balance of political parties at all levels of politics within London.
Oona: I’ve said all the way through this campaign that I will have an independent panel to vet senior appointments. We can’t carry on with accusations of cronyism that have dogged the Mayoralty for 10 years. People who take senior posts in the GLA need to have the skills and experience to deliver change, and Londoners should expect nothing less.
Ken: I will ensure that appointments are carried out under the rules – the principles set out in the GLA Act and governed by national legislation, and avoid the pitfalls of Boris Johnson’s appointments, notably the chaos over Simon Milton’s appointment as planning adviser.
I will abolish multiple deputy mayors – there will be one deputy mayor as specified in the Act. One thing I think was a terrible and frankly sectarian error was the decision of Boris Johnson to eliminate all Labour voices from the LDA and I although my preoccupation will be with getting the job done, I will also appoint people from all backgrounds if they are the right person to make sure London’s interests are furthered.
Q6: Whoever is elected Mayor in 2012 will be the face of London at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. If you’re elected there will have been at least one previous office holder who has helped deliver the games, would you ensure a prominent role for your predecessor(s)?
Ken: If I’m elected I hope Boris will be part of the Olympic celebrations and he’d certainly be very welcome. It will be an event for everyone in London regardless of party affiliation and I want the whole city to come together.
I believe the absolute priority for the next Mayor in 2012 will be to deliver the maximum possible benefit for Londoners from the legacy of the Olympics, particularly on jobs and new housing. When we won the Games we pledged to use the Olympics to bring long term improvements to one of the poorest and neglected areas of the country.
It is essential the Olympics and Paralympics are far more than the amazing sporting spectacle. The 2012 Games provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring new jobs and opportunities to communities across London. I will work with everyone who supports that objective.
I am pleased that Boris Johnson retained my Olympics adviser after the election although some of his own Olympics appointments, such as David Ross, have been somewhat less successful.
Oona: I want to build a broad coalition to real change London for good. A large number of people have been involved in delivering the games (not just a couple of former Mayors).
Recognising the contribution of the people who have helped deliver the games is much more important that sorting out the seating arrangements for a bunch of politicians. What matters is that I don’t come in as Mayor and disrupt the planning, that, by then will be at an advanced stage.
I also want to make sure that the efforts and contributions of ordinary Londoners is recognised – they’re the people who’ve paid for it and in some cases will have to put up with massive disruption while stadia are built and millions of people poor in to the city.
Q7: As London recovers from the recession how would you work alongside other stakeholders, such as business leaders and the City of London Corporation, to promote the capital to major businesses from elsewhere in the UK and abroad?
Oona: My Labour roots mean I believe in redistributing wealth, to tackle inequality and solve the problems this city faces. But to redistribute wealth we need to create wealth – which means we need to facilitate the City of London’s development.
London’s businesses and business leaders are vital in providing the jobs our city needs. I want to have a strong relationship to make this happen. I will reopen the international offices. And I want to develop an economic strategy to support our creative industries (London’s number two employer), starting with rebuilding some of the expertise to be lost in closure of the UK Film Council by beefing up Film London.
But I also want to use the convening power of the Mayor to ensure that businesses pay workers the London Living Wage at £7.85 an hour and keep improving working conditions. I’ve campaigned on pay and conditions my whole life, being Mayor will give me an excellent opportunity to influence job creation and working conditions.
Ken: I have said if I am elected I will reverse Boris Johnson’s cuts to London’s offices in India and China and I want to open a new office in Brazil which is the eighth largest economy in the world.
I launched an economic policy document last month, ‘Defending London’s Living Standards and economy from the Tories’. The report identified the urgent need for greater engagement with major economies including India, China and Brazil and the damage caused by Tory government cuts on falling levels of public and private investment in London.
To make London an attractive and competitive city we need to encourage economic growth and redistribute wealth in the interests of all Londoners – through holding down fares, making the Living Wage a condition of procurement, employment and services within the GLA group and ODA and using every lever to convince London employers to implement the Living Wage, building a new consensus across London for new infrastructure projects to improve the quality of life in London and create new jobs
We can’t take recovery for granted – there is a real risk of double dip recession as a result of the Tory government policy of cuts and Boris Johnson’s complete inaction to put jobs and growth back at the heart of City Hall’s agenda.
I believe the Mayor must do far more to use the powers of City Hall and the influence of the Mayor’s office to bring new jobs and growth to London.
Q8: At the other end of the scale, do you see a role for the Mayor in providing assistance to Londoners looking to set up small businesses, for example by sponsoring low-cost office or workshop accommodation or by requiring larger companies to make such units available through Section 106 agreements?
Ken: Yes I will explore all the avenues we need to help small business, linked to the overall aim of maintaining investment in infrastructure that makes businesses of all sizes viable. But in addition I am also interested in looking at where we can support co-operatives and other mutual based models of businesses.
I will collaborate with stakeholders including the trade unions and the co-operative movement on the development of taxi co-ops to ensure the cab trade is open to as many people as possible. To reduce carbon emissions and deliver cheaper energy bills I want to see more community-based and co-operative models in the delivery of our environmental policies. I’ve set out in some detail how we should be protecting pubs in London and one aspect of this could involve community ownership.
Oona: There’s definitely a role for the Mayor in boosting the amount of low-cost office space we have; although I suspect there is so much already built, but not being rented out.
Small businesses make up such a large proportion of the companies in the capital. Camden and Hoxton are famous for their start ups, particularly in the creative industries, but there are also thousands of small business operating shops, services, pubs, restaurants, market stalls and more right across the capital. They shape our communities and create opportunities.
I want small business to flourish and I will do everything I can with business forums, local authorities and traders associations to make sure people have opportunities to try their hand at running their own business. Some local authorities are already supporting businesses well (Lambeth, say, does a good job at working with traders at Brixton Market) – so I’ll help make sure all the boroughs are sharing best practice and supporting new and small business.
I’ll also look at whether we can improve City Hall’s procurement processes to give greater access to smaller businesses.
Q9: Over the past decade the GLA has played a major role in promoting equality, for example by supporting same-sex partnerships ahead of government legislation, promoting the living wage and, most recently, by extending concessionary travel to veterans and those on low incomes, how would your Mayoralty take that record forward?
Oona: I’ve staked my campaign on being able to tackle inequality in London. For me this means the inequalities in housing, education, crime and opportunities in life. I will use City Hall to campaign for regional Living Wage legislation. Too many low paid workers effectively receive subsistence salaries that the government tops up with benefits.
I will be launching a women’s policy in the next couple of weeks because women are more likely to be in poverty and more likely to have sole caring responsibility for children and the elderly which forces them in to low paid part time work.
I will fight, in the face of government cuts, to keep precious help like the winter fuel allowance and Freedom Pass that help so many people who struggle with London’s cost of living.
Ken: Under my period as Mayor London gave a lead in fighting for equalities – setting up the first civil partnerships register; recruiting more black, Asian and women police officers; seeing racist attacks halved; holding the city together after the 7/7 terrorist attacks; making it safer to travel home at night including with the licensing of minicabs, the extension of the night bus network and the establishment of safer transport police teams; making the GLA one of the best employers in the country for LGBT staff; ensuring real representation in senior posts; introducing the living wage; major events to get the views of women – such as CapitalWoman; ensuring that all Londoners could understand the different experiences of their fellow Londoners through a range of festivals, from St Patrick’s Day and St George’s Day to Simcha in Square and Diwali; promoting London as a place the world could invest in based on its openness to different cultures and lifestyles; holding the biggest anti-racist festival – Rise – anywhere in Europe; addressing through fares policies the financial pressures on the poorest families and so on.
This agenda has been left in tatters by Boris Johnson and London will suffer in the long term for it. Let me give one definite example out of many changes that I want to see. London is home to the biggest LGBT community in Europe. Yet we have no official recognition of this at City Hall. I will hold an annual LGBT Pride reception at City Hall and I will make sure the Greater London Authority takes place in the Stonewall Employers’ Index so we can measure how well we stand up as an employer and set an example to the rest of the public sector and to private businesses too.
My economic policy document sets out how I will take forward the work on the living wage – beefing up the living wage unit to make it more of a reality for Londoners. I’ve also argued that part of Labour’s agenda should be a fair minimum wage that does not discriminate against young workers.
Q10: At the end of four years what would be the biggest legacy of your term at City Hall?
Ken: We need to be clear that the political situation is being transformed by the agenda of this government, which is using the deficit to drive through an ideological assault on public services and investment. We do not know exactly how far they will have gone by 2012 and what the precise impact will have been but I take the view that it is inherently worse and more dangerous than the attack that was opened up under Thatcher.
If there is one thing I can say with certainty it is that I will oversee a lower fares policy overall than Boris Johnson will be able to do. This is because I will restore or establish revenue streams and cut wasteful vanity projects. Currently a few are benefiting at the expense of the many. A restored western half of the congestion charge and a new emissions-based charging framework for gas guzzling cars driving into the zone alone will give us around £100million a year to ease the pressure on fare payers. We must do something – Boris Johnson’s disgraceful decision to pile the burden on bus users has been one of his worse decisions.
The most important achievement for a Mayor in 2016 will be protecting London public services – such as police, transport, and housing – which millions of Londoners depend on everyday from the threat of huge government cuts and putting jobs and economic growth at the heart of the Mayor’s agenda.
London’s public services and the issue of jobs and economic growth underpin so much of our everyday lives that they must be the Mayor’s overriding priority. Boris Johnson has completely failed to stand up for London and has embarked on a programme of cuts which will see fewer police officers, higher fares and a complete failure to invest in affordable housing.
I also want to use what I do as Mayor – on the quality of life, on climate change, on house-building, on frontline policing, on fares and transport – to help set the agenda for the Labour government I hope will follow this present government.
Oona: There’s no doubt that the four year term from 2012 onwards is going to be a massive challenge. The Conservative/Lib Dem government seem to have reverted straight to type, slashing public spending. However, as I write this we don’t know the depth or speed of those cuts. If I am Mayor I will do everything I can to protect Londoners and help tackle the persistent inequality that exists.
That said, if I did one thing, it would be to make the streets safer for London’s teenagers. I can’t escape worrying about the future for my children living in Mile End when knife, gang and gun crime are so widespread. This year 14 kids have died on London’s streets, but the effect is far wider than that. During the course of the campaign I met a mother who said she couldn’t take her son to Asda because it would involve crossing a post code, and hence take her boy into the territory of other gangs.
We can’t stop crime of course, but is the number one issue for Londoners – to tackle it needs a steady focus over four years. We need to provide opportunities to secondary school kids, by creating a London-wide paid work experience scheme, by ensuring that youth funding is spread fairly across the capital. We need to support the police in their detection efforts – the use of knife arches and detection wands. Better that a kid is stopped and searched than shot or stabbed. And we need to protect police numbers, although I can’t believe the Conservatives would really dare cutting thousands of officers.
If we can make London teenagers feel safer; if we can reduce knife, gun and gang crime, I will feel that my term as Mayor has been a success.
Voting for Labour’s 2012 Mayoral candidate closes on September 22nd and the result will be announced on September 24th. For more information on both candidates and their campaigns visit www.kenlivingstone.com and www.oona4mayor.com