Londonist was at the Royal Festival Hall on Tuesday for the formal launch of Ken Livingstone’s mayoral election campaign. Setting aside the usual cynicism about politicians and the worrying stuff in those Evening Standard exposes, it was a stirring occasion.
Doreen Lawrence introduced the mayor, paying tribute to his achievements including his contribution to putting the capital at ease with its own cosmopolitanism. He thanked her for her role in improving the attitude of the Met before going on to express pride in his achievements going way back to the GLC days and emphasising his desire to see London keep moving forward.
Like Ken or loathe him you feel he’s plumbed into this city in a way Boris Johnson will never be. His problem, though, may be that some Londoners fear he’s wandered too close to the sewers or simply that he’s looking a bit rusty. There’s also the sense that he’s won so many arguments over the years – over lesbians and gays, over racism, over the Freedom Pass, the congestion charge and so on – that he can’t define himself as sharply against his opponents as he once could.
On the face of it, he and The Blond are chalk and cheese. But when you look at their declared policies it seems that the fundamentals of Livingstone’s legacy would remain if the Tory triumphed on 1st May. Sure, there are differences but they’re not vast as they would once have been. Looking a safe alternative is all part of Johnson’s – and David Cameron’s - strategy.
So now we’re into the heart of the race and if an opinion poll published on Monday is any guide, Johnson has taken the lead. Can he stay there or will he unravel under closer scrutiny? Is Livingstone’s dip in that poll a mere blip, or are we seeing the beginning of the end for one of the most innovative politicians the Left has ever produced? And what of Lib Dem Brian Paddick, for whom there may be a great deal of potential sympathy if only he can persuade the electorate that voting for him won’t be a waste? Who really knows? Londonist is still hedging its bets.
By Dave Hill