When Oona King decided to challenge Ken Livingstone for Labour’s 2012 Mayoral candidacy it opened up the prospect that Team Ken, having been committed to helping their man take back City Hall ever since he lost to Boris Johnson in 2008, would have a genuine fight on their hands to secure the nomination.
That’s as it should be, when Londoners get around to picking their next Mayor they should know that each candidate has been tested by their respective parties and earned their place on the ballot.
King’s supporters have protested that the selection timetable unfairly aids Livingstone, I don’t know about that but her campaign are hardly helping themselves or their candidate.
Last week the Guardian’s Dave Hill reported that he’d been the only media presence at a King campaign event.
That came as little surprise given that Team Oona has been fairly slack at reaching out to the wider London media and blogs, something which can only harm their efforts to get her message across and could prove counter-productive if she pulls off a shock win and ends up leading Labour’s 2012 campaign.
But of course, even more important than getting the message across is getting it right and here too the King campaign has work to do.
Today on her blog she suggests that housing has fallen down the agenda, a claim made the day before the London Assembly question Boris’s housing advisor and just days after the Mayor called for greater control of the Homes and Communities Agency within London.
Does it matter if she gets the odd thing wrong? Possibly not, but given she’s up against a man who has been campaigning relentlessly for more than two years I’d have thought the fewer unforced mistakes she makes the better her campaign will be for it.
One of the themes coming from the King campaign is that no-one (by which her supporters mean Ken Livingstone) has a right to the Mayoralty.
On that I agree, I’d even go further and suggest that democracy is best served when the eventual victor has had to fight every day for every single vote – the fewer politicians who feel they have a right to their positions the better off we all are.
Sadly the bookmakers verdict is that King is failing to take the fight to Livingstone, they expect him to walk Labour’s contest (they also predict he faces a second defeat at the hands of Boris) which can hardly be a good thing.
If she’s to be taken seriously King needs to up her game, she can’t afford to look under briefed on issues she rightly highlights as priorities.
More than that, she has a duty both to Labour Party members and Londoners in general to ensure that should Livingstone emerge as Boris’s challenger for the Mayoralty in 2012, he’s had to earn his place on the ballot not merely coasted through on the strength of past glories.