The first of four Conservatives Mayoral hustings took place earlier tonight as the party enters the final stages of choosing a candidate to take on incumbent Ken Livingstone in next year’s elections.
The whole Tory Mayoral selection process has been billed as an exercise in reaching out to a wider London so it’s a bit unfortunate that at tonight’s event the candidates repeatedly spoke to the party faithful to the exclusion of anyone else who might have come along.
Not only did the references to where “we” are in local government or what “our” councillors seem out of place but its not yet clear that any of the candidates really understand the need to appeal to non-Tory voters.
It’s hard to see how promises to abolish the young persons Oyster card (though not the Freedom card which the platform were keen to speak in favour of) is going to appeal those who find them useful and a good idea.
Equally the panel were quick with generalised comments – anyone present would be forgiven for coming away with them impression that youths on the buses never had any good reason to be on them, especially after school.
In an age of efforts to get more youths to spend their time in the community on productive ventures the suggestion by Borwick that their bus pass cease to be valid after 6pm seems a little limiting.
All to often statements were made which seemed ill researched, Andrew Boff promised to “sell” City Hall despite the GLA not owing it and more than once contenders promised large scale cuts in City Hall jobs without sharing any thoughts on the likely costs of redundancy payments or tribunal awards.
Points to Warwick Lightfoot who went to pains to point out that staff have contracts and rights and that cutting jobs was easy to say and less so to actually do.
Inevitably a lot of people had come to see Boris but some seemed to leave a little disappointed, the much touted Ken-beater seemed to spend most of his time agreeing with the other candidates and lacked any big idea to hang his campaign on. His habit of referring to London as a “town” soon became annoying.
As it was none of the candidates made an obvious breakthrough. Boris might be the media darling but nothing he said or did during the night lived up the hype and were it not for his name recognition he’d have a harder time securing the nomination.
However his policy to design a new London bus seemed genuinely popular with those present.
A tip for the organisers, if you’re going to invite non-party members at least try to make them feel welcome – in the wait beforehand more could have been done to greet those who’d come along.
Ultimately the event felt a bit flat but at least the Tories have tried to do something different and new. Maybe by the end of the week they runners will have warmed up and a bit more spirit will be on show.