It’s been another bruising week in the London mayoral election campaign. Eccentric Tory contender Boris Johnson may have had the best of it. On Tuesday Ken Livingstone announced that drivers of gas-guzzlers will be charged £25 to enter the Congestion Zone from October – assuming he’s re-elected. The Greens support the move, but the Lib Dems’ Brian Paddick – he’s the gay, “cannabis cop” from Brixton, you’ll recall – was critical, notably of the same scheme’s proposal that drivers of small cars would go free. He and others argue with some force that the C-charge has become an E-charge – E for (carbon) emissions – which isn’t the same thing.
Then, on Wednesday morning, Johnson published his crime manifesto. He’s been drawing attention to the spate of teenage killings over the past year or so. This might be a low tactic at a time when London’s crime levels as a whole are stable or falling (depending on which stats you read) and the murder rate has dropped. Yet it’s a disturbing phenomenon. Critics of Johnson say that he’s too silly to be Mayor, but most accounts of his policy launch high up in Millbank Tower suggested that he can be sensible too.
Later that day, Mayor Livingstone got his new budget past a hostile Assembly, but not without losing his temper. The following morning came an environment hustings at Sixty-One Whitehall. Johnson was lightweight, but upbeat, offering to teach Livingstone how to ride a bike. By contrast, the Labour man looked tired. He has a lot on his mind, not least the unending Evening Standard campaign to discredit him. This morning, he responded by suspending his advisor Lee Jasper, who’s been the subject of corruption allegations, and asking the police to intervene. Livingtone’s (and Jasper’s) calculation is that Jasper will be exonerated and the Standard’s stories discredited. It’s a sign that he’s aware that Johnson is gaining momentum. It’s game on, with a long way still to go.
By Dave Hill