Socialist Worker

Ken Livingstone's move to the right is at the root of his crisis

by Chris Bambery
Issue No. 2096

Opinion polls showing Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson neck and neck in the race for London mayor, or even Johnson ahead, have grabbed the headlines.

There is a real chance the Tory toff might win and, if that weren't enough, the fascist British National Party (BNP) might gain a seat on the London assembly.

The real problem is that Livingstone is not inspiring support among his traditional base.

Eight years ago Livingstone was elected mayor as an independent in opposition to New Labour. Four years ago he ran as the New Labour candidate ­having been readmitted to the party with Tony Blair's blessing. His vote went down.

Now, as the New Labour candidate, he is mired in the wreckage of Gordon Brown's government. But that was a choice Ken made – he has handcuffed himself to New Labour.

The Guardian reported last week that Livingstone had a strong lead over Johnson among non-white voters. But further on it admitted that 'only 29 percent of non-white Londoners say they are certain to vote'.

That begs the question – why are 71 percent of a group that traditionally votes Labour and is seen as a bastion of Livingstone's support not motivated to back him on 1 May?

One reason may be the way that Livingstone and Johnson mirror each other's policies.

Livingstone has pledged to copy the Tory's pledge to force young people who misbehave on buses and are stripped of free travel to carry out community service to get it back.

On knife crime there is a similar competition between the two. Last week Livingstone called for snap police raids on schools. Johnson wants to put knife-scanning equipment into schools.

The New Labour, Tory, Liberal Democrat and Green mayoral contestants all back more police on London's streets despite the fact that record numbers of police have failed to deal with crime.

The only candidate not to join the demand for more police is the Left List's Lindsey German, who identifies social deprivation, exclusions from schools, lack of youth facilities and the criminalisation of young people as being at the heart of the problem.

Both frontrunners parade their support in the City of London. Nigel Bourne , the director of the London office of the bosses' CBI organisation, called Livingstone 'a very pro-business mayor'.

In this situation simply calling for people to vote for New Labour to keep out Johnson and the BNP does not work. The reason that they may gain in the elections is because swathes of working class Londoners cannot bring themselves to vote Labour.

Livingstone has made an electoral deal with the Greens, who are urging supporters to cast their second vote for the mayor. He has also said the second votes of those voting Left List, Green and other parties could be key to his being returned.

Lindsey German has made it clear that the Left List is calling for a vote for her first and Livingstone second.

Our aim is to get out the votes of those who want a radical alternative to the established parties.

See also » London's working poor and » Ken and Boris launch a war on young people


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