Ken Livingstone has beaten off Oona King to win the nomination for Labour candidate for Mayor of London. His victory was decisive – gaining 68.8 per cent of the Electoral College votes so a victory of more than two to one. However, most London Labour MPs backed Oona King.
In voting for the past rather than the future the Labour Party have made a mistake. It is not so much that Livingstone is old as that he is old at heart. Unrepentant about his past failings which led to his defeat last time. Very much locked in the mindset of a sectarian machine politician. Oona – fresher, more open minded, without all the baggage – would have been harder to beat. Livingstone's negative message from last time – that Boris was inexperienced and that he had secret plans to punish Muslims, pensioners, etc – will have rather less traction in 2012. While the Boris campaign's message that Livngstone would "drag London backwards" will only resonate more over the coming months.
Livingstone will complain about fares going up. This would have been an easier message for Oona. Last year's fares package for 2010 meant that, overall, bus fares rose by 12.7 per cent and Tube fares by 3.9 per cent. Certainly something a rival candidate to the incumbent could reasonably make use of. Unless their name happens to be Ken Livingstone. He presided over fare increases introduced in 2005 and 2006 for bus and Tube fares of 12.7 per cent and 4 per cent, and then by 12.9 per cent and 3.9 per cent respectively.
Dizzy has already called on LBC to pull the plug on Livingstone now that he is an official candidate. He will not be the only one making this case.
Roger Evans, leader of the Conservatives in the London Assembly has offered his reaction:
This isn’t the eighties. Voters are looking for more than just knee jerk opposition, they want politicians who will embrace new solutions. Beyond the radical fringes, they want their leaders to cooperate to bring us through the difficult times we face. Contrast the approval attracted by the coalition parties pooling their efforts with public opposition to the RMT’s class war tactics.
Slapping up red banners attacking the government is no substitute for constructive negotiations. London’s government is no longer located provocatively opposite Parliament, and Lord Foster’s City Hall provides little space to hang left wing propaganda.
Ken is skilled at portraying himself as the voice of London, and his knowledge of matters affecting the capital can be scarily detailed. But his appeal doesn’t extend across the whole city. In office he became known for neglecting the suburbs, visiting Havana more often than Havering or Hounslow.
Boris provoked much laughter when he fell in the Quaggy River during a photo opportunity – Ken would never have fallen in, because the Quaggy River isn’t in Zone 1. Voters in outer London flocked to the polls in unprecedented numbers in 2008, precisely so that they could vote Ken out. We can expect to see a rerun of the famous ‘doughnut strategy’ in 2012.
And the hostility is not just suburban. Ken will need to offer the voters of Kensington and Chelsea more than the reimposition of the congestion charge extension if he is to secure their votes.