Mayoral hopefuls woo London’s business community

London's business community questioned the candidates
What divides London’s Mayoral hopefuls?

Not a lot going by last night’s business hustings where Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone, Jenny Jones and Brian Paddick used the platform to set out their business-friendly credentials.

All were robust in their support of immigration, insisting it was essential to feed business with the new staff needed for expansion.

None favour a mansion tax they fear will eventually clobber cash poor households who own properties now worth £1m, but which cost much less when bought.

The four also oppose new runways at Heathrow, though Jenny’s suggestion that few business people really need to fly and many could make do with teleconferencing received a frosty response.

The key difference between the two leading candidates remains fares.

Ken’s promise to cut fares by 7% allowed Boris to question the credibility of every transport investment or new initiative he proposed, while Livingstone accused his successor of “sitting on money” which could help Londoners and boost the economy.

As Boris told the audience, on this issue voters face “a binary choice”.

Ken seemed slightly subdued at the start of the evening, but I thought he picked up as the night went on. His tax arrangements gave each of his rivals an easy line of attack which he had to sit and grin through. I’m not convinced he found it as comfortable as he’d like us to think.

But Labour’s candidate was able to get some jibes of his own in, suggesting that Tube unions thought Boris was a soft touch and claiming, and this needs to be checked, that during his own Mayoralty he never improved a single pay deal once the unions threatened to strike.

It was at the same event four years ago that Boris’s promise to close London’s international offices collided with the City’s like of them and desire to keep them. After a number of business leaders stood up to praise the offices, Boris announced he was open to being persuaded about their merit.

With last night being light on specific proposals from any of the candidates, there was no danger of policies being similarly condemned.

But Boris needs to find a new act. The noise-making, interrupting, smirking routine he deploys at City Hall didn’t play well to an audience of senior business people. Several times he had to be asked to behave by Chair Samira Ahmed and at one point, though whether from the floor or platform I wasn’t sure, he was told to shush.

Overall, the absence of specifics and a lot of consensus made for a flat event.

By popular acclaim the star of the night was Brian Paddick who, as well as swiping at Ken on tax, suggested Boris loved the new bus for London because it looked like his house, with “three entrances and two staircases”.

It’s hard to imagine Paddick making such an effective intervention four years ago, a sign perhaps that he really is the “more confident” candidate he promised Liberal Democrat members they would get this tine.

PS: Boris Bingo players can mark off “neo-Victorian”, “exporting cake to France” and, if memory serves “Morning Star subscription”.


  1. Damian Hockney says

    Elections in which diverse candidates with different views are airbrushed out are, of course, always flat. This is why the viewing figures for the debates between the “main” candidates last time in 2008 collapsed during the shows. Now that state radio and television (BBC) has permitted one other candidate to appear at the top table by its election rules it could make it a little more interesting, but that is not enough. These events are organised for media, and as it has been decided that only four candidates will be allowed to appear, then the event planners themselves are effectively told to censor our the others or their own event will not be given media. It should not be for the state and its media arm to decide who should be barred from media and who should be the beneficiary of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of puff coverage.

  2. Bryan Paul Tomlinson says

    Business hustings 2012 or TripeWatch.
    I gather that the wealthy professional talkers are against increased wealth taxes. ( The uninvited UKIP candidate is an ex electrician and not wealthy )
    All 4 middle class liberal candidates support further erosion of working class wage levels by increased immigration. It’s pathetic really. Half a million Londoners have no work and are losing hope. When hundreds of thousands of 16 to 24 year olds feel disenfranchised it leads to Londonwide rioting. These self serving and arrogant middle class parasites are out of touch and prefer foreign people instead of London’s voters. Put these snobs on the scrapheap so they can taste the medicine they serve us. ( UKIP offer sensible controls on immigration to protect all London’s workers )
    All are against a 3rd Heathrow runway but they have no say in the matter. If their political party says YES to Heathrow expansion their view is immaterial. Witness the Labour Party u-turn after meetings between Geoff Hoon and BAA even after John McDonnell’s sterling anti 3rd runway efforts. ( UKIP are the movement for all Londoners and are not controlled by greedy businesses or trade unions )
    Having only four representatives at any election husting is a disgrace. Is democracy a closed shop for the white wealthy middle classes?

  3. Damian Hockney says

    Bryan, I’m afraid you will have to get used to an election in which candidates are effectively silenced and in which the state suppresses diversity of views expressed. The media coverage of this trite discussion and the constant reinforcement of the names of the state’s chosen candidates is worth hundreds of thousands of pounds for the chosen (that’s what Obama raised his money for). And your man is not even allowed (by spending rules) to send a leaflet out to all of his constituents to put his point of view!

  4. Bryan Paul Tomlinson says

    Damian, the hypocrisy is disgusting. I feel a smug hand patting my head and saying ” don’t worry sonny, keep quiet and we’re look after you “.
    Then I look around. We’re letting youngsters down in too many ways. I constantly hear prejudiced politicians and business leaders talk our youth down while glorifying hungry workers from other countries.
    We do not look after our elderly. Pay 50 years of taxation but no return when the elderly are at their most vulnerable.
    We are a rich nation run by selfish greedy liberal snides sharing the wealth amongst themselves. UK PLC can spend £billions on foreign intervention thousands of miles away. Pssss ! still chasing Al Qaeda ? The European spokesman is holed up nicely in Wembley living off the infidels welfare payments.
    I’d prefer Granny Aid instead of foreign aid. Liberals love the poor but will drive past struggling Britons to catch a first class flight to another country.
    I learnt a lot about democracy when the middle class liberal parliamentarians hijacked the EU referendum debate.
    I can’t be the only one who sees these mistakes.