Should Mayoral Candidates Have London Assembly Experience?

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 73 months ago
Should Mayoral Candidates Have London Assembly Experience?

Londonist went to the Mayoral hustings at Living Streets last week, which focused on transport. The most noticeable thing about the hustings is that of the four frontrunners, only Jenny Jones turned up in person. Ken and Brian sent their deputy mayor running mates – Val Shawcross for Labour, Caroline Pidgeon for the Lib Dems – and Boris sent Richard Tracey, who managed to put his foot in it straight away by saying that of the many invitations Boris receives, the hustings wasn't that high on his list of priorities. Not a good move for a room not exactly packed with Tory supporters.

If you've been following our coverage of the transport manifestos as they've launched (if not, you've still got time to read Boris's, Ken's and Jenny's. The full Lib Dem manifesto is released this week) you won't have been much surprised at the content of the debate. In a nutshell: Val, Caroline and Jenny all advocated putting pedestrians, cyclists and public transport much higher on the strategy priority list than private cars, particularly in central London. Accessibility was a big issue, returned to several times, as was junction safety and investment in public transport to meet London's growing needs. You can search Twitter for the hashtag #transportQT.

What was interesting about the event was the way the debate stuck to the issues. There was brief spatting between Richard and Val over whether there really is a surplus in TfL's budget for Ken's fares cut, but it never strayed into the kind of personal attacks we've seen recently. Possibly because all four sit on the London Assembly transport committee, so have got to know each other well (and quite probably will be working with each other next term), but possibly because they knew their stuff inside out. Of course they did: Val and Jenny have been on the Assembly since 2000 and councillors around London; Caroline and Richard came onto the Assembly in 2008 but have been a councillor (Caroline) or an MP (Richard) in London for years before that. They've spent their lives working on issues that matter to Londoners and are bang up to speed with the latest developments.

We've argued before that because the Mayor holds little real power, the position needs someone with a big personality to influence / cajole / bully his or her policies through. But if having big personalities contest the election turns it, as we've seen recently, into a massive dick swinging contest (suggestions in the comments as to who is the massivest dick), would it be better if Mayoral candidates were required to have some kind of Assembly experience?

Photo by alan habbick from the Londonist Flickr pool

Last Updated 09 April 2012


The standard of debate at this was certainly better than what I saw on the LBC footage of Boris and Ken. Although the persistent heckling of Richard Tracey was disgraceful and I'm pleased that the Chair pitched in and tried to put a stop to it. It may be been a predominantly Green/Lib audience but there's no excuse for refusing to let a speaker even have his say no matter what your politics.

ASLEF shrugged

The difference between debating policies as opposed to letting personalities dominate, at least Boris sent another Tory male who has a complete disregard for women.  Maybe I’m being unfair and Tracey just doesn’t have to decency to let anyone else speak without opening his fat gob.
Certainly some political experience is necessary for the job, either at a council level or at Westminster but a connection with London is essential, thus Lembit Opik was a non-starter.  If you restricted the candidates to those who had served on the Assembly then your candidate pool for all parties is limited to the current 25 plus those who have served in the past.