Socialist Worker

London mayoral race gets underway

by Anindya Bhattacharyya
Issue No. 2299

Boris Johnson’s reign as London mayor has been great for his friends. The number of senior managers earning more than £100,000 a year in City Hall has risen from 16 to 28 during his four years there.

The news comes as a poll shows 37 percent of Londoners think Johnson is a mayor who favours the rich. The brazen Tory support for the wealthy is unpopular, especially in the wake of the budget.

Yet the same poll shows Johnson is still ahead in the race for London mayor, although his lead is dropping.

Ken Livingstone, the Labour candidate and former London mayor, scores 47 percent compared to Johnson’s 53 percent.

This is despite Labour’s comfortable lead in the London Assembly elections, where they score 50 percent to the Tories’ 33 percent.

One reason for this is the way Johnson has distanced himself from the Tories. The mainstream media is only too happy to play up to his image as a harmless fool.

But the other reason lies within the Labour Party itself. The Blairite right wing has mounted a ill-concealed effort to sabotage Livingstone’s campaign after they failed to dislodge him as Labour’s candidate.

Much of their hatred for Livingstone stems from his opposition to the Iraq war and his stance defending Muslims against racism.

Last week the far right UK Independence Party called for a second preference vote for Johnson in nakedly racist terms. “Ayatollah Livingstone would be a disaster for London,” said its leader Nigel Farage.

Livingstone’s campaign needs to focus on issues that will mobilise the city’s working class population, such as youth unemployment, lower fares and affordable housing.

He also needs to go on the offensive against the racists—as he did at last week’s Stonewall hustings when he condemned attacks on Muslims and said, “Right wing politicians pander to bigotry. Don’t be divided.”

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Tue 17 Apr 2012, 17:51 BST
Issue No. 2299
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