It is simple: we cannot allow the offensive and malicious Ken Livingstone back into City Hall

Craig Barrett 11.39am

Polls polls polls! "Boris lead narrows!" "Ken less popular than his party!" "Boris more popular than Tories!" "Only 12% of people believe that Ken is honest!"

While opinion polling has become much more sophisticated, anyone who watched the 1992 general election coverage on Easter Monday would know that only one poll matters: when you enter your booth and wield your pencil (unless you live in Tower Hamlets, of course).

With just one week to go until the election for London’s mayor, the current polling serves only to allow campaigners to twist and spin to whatever advantage possible and to remind people (like me) that we should be doing more to help.

I feel a bit sorry in some ways for the London Labour party. They have had a candidate forced on them who seems to owe no loyalty to them barring the right to campaign under their banner and deploy their activists for his own ends.

Had Labour picked someone else, Mr Livingstone, who believes the mayoralty his divine right, would have run as an independent candidate as he did in 2000.

Mr Livingstone’s campaign is a goulash of undeliverable policies, bold but inaccurate pronouncements about his Tory opponent, and craft attempts to shift the media’s focus away from his own activities. It is not so much that Mr Livingstone is a stranger to the truth, it is more that lying and smoke-screens come easier to him.

To Mr Livingstone, it matters not that he has no power to restore the EMA, or that the TfL ‘cash mountain’ is intended for investment rather than fare giveaways. To Mr Livingstone, it matters not that the only experience he has to validate his comments on Boris Johnson’s tax affairs comes from his own hypocritical tax avoidance. To Mr Livingstone, it matters not that what spews from his mouth is offensive to one group of Londoners or another.

Mr Livingstone has given us no compelling reasons to vote for him; no policies on which any Londoner can be certain of his delivering. His crony-aplenty, wasteful record in City Hall speaks for itself.

Contrast that figure with Boris Johnson, who has actually delivered on his promises - whether policing, sustainable housing, tax freezes and others - and whose plans are both costed and practical.

But above all else, consider two vital points. First, I am not old enough to remember Mr Livingstone’s reign as leader of the Greater London Council but I know enough to understand it for what it was: a publicly funded one man crusade of self-justification, with money poured down the drain to embarrass Mrs Thatcher’s government or to challenge its actions in the courts.

The Mayor of London must speak for the city with an independent voice, but they must also be able to co-operate with central government to ensure the best for the city. For at least the first three years of the next mayor’s tenure there will be a Conservative politician in 10 Downing Street and while Mr Johnson and Mr Cameron may not be close personally, they do at least have a mutual understanding and interest.

Boris Johnson is a doughty fighter who has regularly exercised his inherent independence to seek the best for London. Mr Livingstone’s egomania and pathological hatred of the Tories will mean that were he to be elected next week, it would be the start of at least three years of pitched battles on meaningless fronts, all paid for by London’s rate payers.

Second, and perhaps most important, Mr Livingstone’s public utterances over the past few months demonstrate the type of man he is.

Whether suggesting that a councillor in Hammersmith & Fulham ought to “burn in hell…and…flesh be flayed for demons for all eternity”; whether suggesting that gay bankers in the Middle East could be mutilated; whether suggesting that London’s Jewish population is too rich to vote Labour; or whether simply another cheap insult at a critic, Mr Livingstone appears oblivious to the effect of his own words.

It is not good enough for the Labour party to say “Ken is just being Ken”, or words to that effect. Mr Livingstone is no Jed Bartlet, and the fact that many in the Labour party are doing their best to distance themselves from their own candidate shows the whole strategy is a farce.

In a few months, the eyes of the world will be on London and other cities around the country as Britain hosts the Olympic & Paralympic Games. Boris Johnson may be gaffe-prone but unlike Mr Livingstone his gaffes are rarely offensive and certainly not malicious. We in this great and historic capital city cannot afford to have as our mayor a man who appears to set his stall deliberately to offend others.

For this reason, above all others, I urge you to back Boris Johnson as Mayor of London.

Follow Craig on Twitter @mrsteeduk

Boris Johnson and the Angel in the Marble

David Cowan 10.15am

Boris Johnson is the darling of the Tory grassroots. From the pulpit of his Telegraph column he has hurled bread to his Tory base. His support for tax cuts, higher police numbers and his stance on Europe reveal a populist streak. He has earned the affection of ordinary Tory voters in a way no other Conservative politician, including David Cameron, has managed.

That is not to say Boris Johnson is a Tory ideologue. He is a very much a Tory pragmatist who has tried to appeal to the liberal metropolitan London electorate with substantial increases in the London Living Wage, criticism of housing benefit reform, and support for an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Appealing to the outer suburbs will not be sufficient for a successful re-election campaign. Getting out the vote will be his first priority and that means he has to appeal to a very broad range of people.

This approach has risked making attempts to identify Boris Johnson’s political philosophy like nailing jelly to the wall, but his appeal to the traditional Tory base and the wider liberal metropolitan electorate has been reconciled by the man himself:

“I’m a one-nation Tory. There is a duty on the part of the rich to the poor and to the needy, but you are not going to help people express that duty and satisfy it if you punish them fiscally so viciously that they leave this city and this country. I want London to be a competitive, dynamic place to come to work.”

This is reflected in his impressive record as Mayor (see my earlier blog here), with greater investment in public infrastructure, falling crime rates, and the freezing of council tax. But Boris seems to lack a singular, large achievement that people can easily identify.

By contrast, Ken Livingstone has developed his own narrative by attempting to transform the Mayoral Election into a referendum on ‘Osbornomics’.

Boris Johnson’s personal popularity and impressive record may be enough to secure a second victory but it will do very little for the Conservatives in London. Polling puts the party well behind Labour. This may well mean that the Conservatives will lose the London Assembly but, more seriously, it will also mean a lack of support in the London constituencies that are needed to win the next General Election in 2015, such as Hammersmith.

Boris Johnson must use his time in power to see the Conservative voter in the London electorate as a sculptor sees “the angel in the marble”, as the Times claimed Benjamin Disraeli once did. There are limitations to the Mayor’s powers, but the key to establishing a wider Tory base could lie in his ‘One Nation’ vision.

One of the basic foundations of ‘One Nation’ conservatism has been the ‘property-owning democracy’, as popularised by Anthony Eden and first made a reality by Harold Macmillan’s ambitious 1950s housing programme. Boris Johnson could take this one step further by establishing a new generation of property-owners, and therefore more likely to vote Tory, by implementing a Right to Own scheme, as proposed by five Conservative MPs in ‘After the Coalition’.

Under the Right to Own scheme tenants of social housing would have an automatic share in the equity of the property which they could then choose to sell onto the open market. The equity owned by the tenant would then be used to help pay for a new private property and thus begin to climb the private property ladder. The rest of the money from the sale of the property would then go to the new ‘mayoral development corporations’, which will replace the London Development Agency, and be invested into new modern social housing to meet ever increasing demand in London. This would drive down housing prices and open up access to private property in London’s deprived areas, thus increasing the number of property-owners in London.

Coverage of this year’s mayoral election will inevitably focus the personalities of Boris and Ken. But Conservatives cannot lose sight of the long-term future of the party in London. A new generation of homeowners, supported by efficient infrastructure, effective policing and a prudent City Hall would provide a new Tory base in London from which to secure an overall majority in 2015.

Follow David on Twitter @david_cowan

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Back Boris Again for a Better London

David Cowan 6.00am

In six months Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone face the defining political contest of 2012. Mr Livingstone has tried to make the Mayoral election about the coalition’s spending cuts, while Boris has put forward an optimistic vision for London’s future.
It is essential that Boris Johnson and the Conservatives hold onto London. Ken Livingstone represents everything that is wrong about the Labour party, with his cronyism, support for oppressive dictators, racist slander, patronage of hate preachers and backing the corrupt administration in Tower Hamlets.
A torrid series of shameful offences, of which more can be read about here. His record as London Mayor was appalling. This video clearly demonstrates how he put increasing pressure on the living standards of ordinary Londoners by increasing Council Tax by 153 per cent and introducing the western congestion zone charge.
Ken Livingstone has no strong idea of how he is going to change London and actually said earlier this year that he would reveal his policies the day after the election! Ken Livingstone has been more concerned about scoring points against the Government and than actually coming up with solutions to London’s problems, as shown by his preposterous claim that the coalition’s spending cuts caused the riots last August.
Another term of Ken Livingstone as Mayor will only be a repetition of the broken promises, public waste, rising living costs, corruption and division of his eight years as Mayor.
By contrast, Boris Johnson has been able to deliver on the five pledges he made in 2008. His most significant achievement has been to make London safer than it ever was under Ken Livingstone. The crime rate has fallen by 9.4% per cent, robberies have fallen by 21 per cent, youth violence has fallen by 15 per cent, the murder rate is at its lowest since 1978 and there will be 1 million police patrols on the streets of London in 2012.
However, this strong record on crime has been tarnished by the August riots and will sound hollow to those whose property was destroyed. Boris Johnson must continue to show that he is on the side of hard working majority of Londoners against the criminal minority who chose out of greed to tear apart of the fabric of their communities.
Another key achievement has been the start of the largest investment programme to upgrade the London Underground, which will increase capacity by 30 per cent, and is being sustainably funded by £7.6 billion worth of efficiency savings. He has also managed to secure a £600 million bond issue from Lloyds TSB to fund the new Crossrail project, which will increase capacity by 10 per cent.
And let’s not forget the now famous ‘Boris Bikes’ scheme funded by Barclays, the reversal of Mr Livingstone’s Western Extension of the Congestion Charge Zone and the revival of the iconic Routemaster buses.
However, Boris’ toughest opponents in the struggle for a high quality and low cost infrastructure will be the RMT and other unions, which is why he must hold his nerve against the ‘fat cat’ union barons, like Bob Crow, and stick up for the ordinary Londoners who use public transport every day.
As Mayor of London, Boris Johnson has shown his commitment to a better and brighter future for the greatest city in the world. Londoners understand this, as a recent YouGov poll has shown: Boris Johnson is enjoying a 15 point lead over Ken Livingstone despite the August riots, but Labour still has a 22 point lead over the Conservatives.
While it is essential that Boris Johnson stays in City Hall it is also important that a strong Conservative presence remains in the London Assembly. It will be a tough fight to get out the vote for the Conservatives but this battle will be a watershed moment in British politics. We need to show that the Conservatives can do well in inner city communities and not just the leafy suburbs and Home Counties if we are to ensure that the irresistible rise of Boris Johnson and the Conservatives will continue.
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