As reported on our news pages campaigning got underway today for May’s elections.
The major event of the day was undeniably Ken Livingstone’s campaign launch. After an introduction from Doreen Lawrence, Ken set out why he wanted to be Mayor for a third term (or as Nick Robinson asked him, why he wanted to be office longer than Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair).
For a man behind in the polls Livingstone seemed pretty confident, urging Londoners to vote for his “progressive” brand of politics instead of the nasty right-wing ones he suggests Boris would pursue.
There were no questions from the audience, as soon as he’d made his speech he began a round of radio and TV interviews including two with Nick Robinson for tonight’s BBC News bulletins.
A few hundred yards down the river Boris Johnson’s campaign had invited the media into their County Hall offices for some off-camera briefings but as I was hanging around at the Festival Hall, listening in on the aforementioned BBC interviews, gossiping with journo types and exchanging a few words with the Mayor, I missed it.
Hearing that Boris would be doing some outside interviews for the broadcast media I made a quick hike to County Hall where an outside broadcast unit were setting up for his interview with the Daily Politics.
Boris and team arrived soon after, making even those of use who were gatecrashing feel very welcome and ensuring everyone got access before having to go off and do some studio based interviews.
Never having met Boris before I’m not sure what I was expecting, but he certainly doesn’t come across as the nasty right-winger Ken spent so much of his launch depicting.
In fact I found him charming and personable, though with a slightly scary stare, and it’s easy to see why Ken’s doing as much as possible to create a contrary impression in the minds of those unlikely to meet candidates in person.
Over the next few weeks the pair are going to swap accusation and counter-accusation, let’s hope in doing so they don’t turnoff voters, if the Mayor and Assembly are to mean anything to Londoners the elections need to enjoy the highest possible turnout.
One small but important way Boris could signify the importance of the elections is in joining Livingstone in calling on Porsche to abandon plans for a legal challenge to the £25 congestion charge. With the filed led by a pro and anti candidate the electorate’s will should be the final say on the matter.