Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Oona King: broad brushes and fresh air

We often hear about the importance of a good "back story" but the problem with Oona King's campaign launch today was that she displayed little else.

For about twenty minutes she spoke to an assembly of pupils at her former Camden school about her multiracial background and how in her diversity "I am London."

Yet back story apart, Oona gave little or no details about what her policies would be if she were elected, or where if anywhere she disagreed with the current Mayor Boris Johnson.

The lines of her campaign were drawn out with the broadest possible brush, yet there were at least some signs of an effective line of attack still to come.

Speaking of her opponents she said:

"The coming mayoral race like no other will be about who can deliver energy and renewal. The last Mayoral race angered many Londoners and I can understand why you know you were either in or out. You were either inner London or outer London. You were for one man or the other. For a guy with blonde hair or a guy with grey hair. For blue or for red...

"But it was very polarised. I don't want a popularity contest based on who is wacky or who is stale. I want passion grounded in innovation and pragmatism... and I'll tell you why because passion alone cannot mend a leaking roof."

There are the beginnings here of a decent pitch to Londoners but they are just beginnings.

What are her views on Crossrail? On the ongoing cuts to police budgets? On the ever-rising cost of travel in London?

What would she do to improve housing, to boost inward investment, or to capitalise on the Olympic games?

Now she may well have answers to all of these questions and more, but if she does, she didn't let on today.

Sitting in the audience at the launch were Jim Fitzpatrick, a long-time opponent of Ken Livingstone, and newly elected MP for Oona's old seat, Rushanara Ali.

For Fitzpatrick and others within Labour, Ken has become "stale" and does not offer the "breath of fresh air" promise by Oona today.

Yet the Mayor of London is about far more than fresh air.

Unlike national politics, being Mayor requires a day-to-day grip of policy and managerial detail on a wide range of issues.

And while Ken has continued to live and breathe London politics since leaving office, Oona has been almost entirely out of the game for the past five years.

We are still in very early days and there may well be other candidates that come forward in the next few weeks.

But if the Labour party want Oona to take on both Ken and Boris, then she will need to get to grips with these details right away.

-Update- Tim Donovan's BBC report from the launch


Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

A summation of modern politics that, all style, no substance.

Jim Jepps said...

Sadly I think she does have political substance, if not any real weight. She has a very clear track record from her years in the House - and it was that of a down the line, no deviation Blairite.

She may represent diversity in one sense, but she certainly does not represent political diversity (or fresh air) and I suspect she'd find it very difficult to win the Mayoralty (if not the selection) because she is exactly the kind of candidate that London has rejected in the past - a party hack.

richy said...

I wasn't enthusiastic before about Oonas running for Mayor, now im even more sceptical. To be taken seriously she needs to start discussing policy details or will simply be dismissed as a Blairite lightweight.....

blanco said...

You guys think that's bad? You should read her interview on LabourList. I never thought so much waffle could be crammed into a few paragraphs - she manages to use so many words and ends up saying absolutely nothing. It is an example of the worst of Blairism, trying to sound all "community" and "engagement" but not having any vision at all. London elects a Mayor, not a Bullshitter-in-Chief.

She is a real life parody of Nicola Murray from The Thick Of It. Some of her phrases even sound like Murray's "fourth sector pathfinders" - trying to "unleash" the energy of voluntary orgs etc. At least you know where you are with Boris and Ken - you know they aren't apparatchniks for their parties, and they actually do things. King's interview and launch suggests she will do nothing apart from what she is told by Labour, and has no ideas of her own.

AdamB said...

Yes I read the interview over there.

It didn't really tell us very much.

Anonymous said...

What about Robin Wales standing

Anonymous said...

When people like Fitzpatrick talk about "a breath of fresh air" what they mean is "all style and no substance". They mean a candidate with no opinions whose image can then be moulded and re-shaped by PR and spin-doctors.

The difficulty that the Labour Party has always had with Ken Livingstone is that he has opinions, and can back them up. He thinks that climate change is an important issue. He thinks that the amount of traffic in central London should be reduced. He thinks bus services should be improved. This makes party-managers nervous: if you set out your policies then someone will argue against them, so time and energy have to be devoted to restating your arguments. It seems so much easier to deal with images rather than policies, unless you happen to think that politics is about choosing between different sets of policies!


AdamB said...

Perish the thought!

AdamB said...

Anon- that's an interesting thought. Has he got his eye on it do you think?

tom mackenzie said...

The cartoon by Jeremy Smyles in his BORIS AT THE OLYMPICS blog sums up what I think of Boris Johnson's judgements, especially the HUBBLE BUBBLE monument, and any candidate who pledges to tear it down, if were stupid enough to build it. gets my vote!