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