Thursday, 24 June 2010

Ken Livingstone vs Oona King vs Boris Johnson

Ken Livingstone and Oona King's hit the Today programme this morning as they officially launch their campaigns to become Labour's candidate in 2012.

Asked by John Humphrys "what's wrong with London at the moment" Ken spoke about Boris's huge fare increases and his failure to secure new projects for London.

Asked the same question, Oona replied that:

"I think one of the biggest issues with London is that it could just be a much more fantastic place to live"

This was dismissed by Humphrys as being a "bit vague" and he gave similarly short shrift to her pledge to stop Londoners from being "stressed out."

As far as hard policy goes, Oona pledged to increase the living wage and to promise every London school-leaver paid work experience.

Her earlier promises to bring in American-style school buses and to re-establish the 50% affordable housing target didn't get a mention.

Later in the day Ken and Oona went on to their selection interviews where Oona was flanked by a number of notorious Ken critics including Neil Kinnock.

Also there was Alan Johnson whose famous Mayoral bid, like those of so many others, has mysteriously failed to materialise.

Meanwhile the incumbent Mayor has done his best to sabotage his own re-election launch, after yet another fallout with City Hall's lawyers.

Insiders at City Hall said the Greater London Authority's lawyers had got wind of the fact the Mayor intended to announce he was running at the taxpayer-funded event.

They advised the Mayor's office that the [State of London debate] which costs in the region of £75,000 to put on, was a statutory public event that could not be used for political purposes

Whether or not Boris really did plan to launch his campaign today is for the history books.

However, what I do know is that City Hall quickly let it be known that Boris would no longer be taking questions from the press or bloggers after today's event.

Yet another victory for accountability eh Boris?

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Brian Coleman to get austerity-busting pay rise

As the Chancellor stands up to tell us that "we're all in this together", Brian Coleman is quietly giving himself another pay rise.

Under the leaked proposals, Boris Johnson's fire chief would gain the title of "Chairman and Leader" with an austerity-busting allowance rise of up to 9%.

The basic allowance given to other members of the authority would also increase by 38%.

The rises come as George Osborne is expected to announce pay freezes across the public sector.

LFEPA claim that overall costs will be kept down by removing old posts and reducing allowances given to the opposition leader.

However, prior to the arrival of Austerity Coleman, the Chairman of the Fire Authority claimed no allowances whatsoever.

Fire Unions are also concerned about plans to limit their rights to speak at Fire Authority meetings.

Under the proposals, Coleman will be able to silence them if he:

"considers the trade union’s presentation to be unreasonable and/or contrary to the good conduct of the business of the meeting."

The list of rules which govern meetings will be also extended to almost 50 pages long, giving Coleman total control of proceedings.

The plans are being pushed through after Boris Johnson changed the appointment procedures in order to keep Coleman in place.

The changes were labeled as "gerrymandering" with the Mayor claiming they were necessary in order to ensure "strong leadership" of the Authority.

Under the old arrangements the Conservatives would have lost their majority at the recent local elections.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Labour nominations for Mayor revealed

Photo by Prj45
The full list of Labour nominations for London Mayor has been revealed.

And contrary to what you may have read in the past two years Alan Johnson isn't on the list.

Tessa Jowell and Diane Abbot aren't on the list either, and there isn't a sitting Assembly Member, MP or Councillor in sight.

So after all that, which Ken-stoppers have bravely put themselves forward?

Full list of nominees:

Ken Livingstone

Oona King

Seton During

Emmanuel Okoro

Mr During said he had 20 years of sea-going experience as a chartered marine engineer, and had served as a councillor for Ponders End on Enfield Council from 1990 to 1994.

If elected as mayor, he promised to "improve the qualities of life and wellness for all Londoners".


Mr Okoro could not be reached for comment.

Right then. Let the Ken-stoppers commence!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Boris's cycle hire stations blocked by councils

Boris Johnson's long-awaited cycle hire scheme has been delayed due to dozens of bike "docking stations" being refused planning permission.

The scheme was meant to begin in May but has been pushed back after 75 of the 498 applications were blocked by individual councils.

It will now open next month but the Mayor admits that some stations will still not be completed before the launch.

Writing in response to a question from Labour Assembly Member Val Shawcross, the Mayor said that it was not clear exactly how many would be completed:

"A number of aspects that impact site delivery are outside of TfL’s control. It is therefore not possible to guarantee exact numbers at this stage, but I expect this to be as close to 400 docking stations as possible."

Boris said that only a "small minority" of stations had been refused and that TfL were working with the nine boroughs affected to meet their concerns.

Val Shawcross has called on the Mayor to release a full list of those stations refused permission.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Boris Johnson brings back Ray Lewis

Boris Johnson has brought back his disgraced former Deputy Mayor Ray Lewis for a new role at City Hall.

No, really. He has:

Mr Lewis's return as an adviser appeared to be a deliberate attempt by Mr Johnson to rehabilitate his friend.

The founder of the Eastside Young Leaders Academy was hired as a deputy mayor with responsibility for young people in a blaze of publicity soon after the 2008 mayoral election.

But he was forced to quit his post after the Ministry of Justice confirmed he had falsely claimed on his CV that he had been a magistrate. Mr Lewis had also faced allegations of sexual and financial misconduct which he denied and no police action was taken.

Lewis is to be part of a new "mentoring" scheme for troubled youths. Here's how he usually goes about that job:

"We! Are! The! Young! Leaders'! Academy!" the boys chant at the end of a morning's drill, as Lewis enters the hall. "What are you looking at his bottom for?" he barks at a young adolescent. "You a batty boy?" His gaze sweeps up and down the lines. "I don't see any rhythm in this room. You move like poonani!" One boy is ordered to face the wall with his hands on his head, another to drop to the floor for 10 press-ups. "Are you looking at me?" Lewis glares at another. "I'm not your friend. Why are you looking at me?

"Someone," Lewis announces, "has been going to the Paki shop across the road. And stealing from that shop. Does anybody know who the guilty party is? Say so now!" His eye falls on a tiny 10-year-old. "Carl! Was it you, Carl? Did you steal from the aforementioned shop? Forget the lie. Did you steal the sweets? Boys, quiet, this is a court of law!"

So that's homophobia, sexism and racism all in the course of one lesson.

What a great mentor Boris has found for London's youth!

In other news, former Standard editor Veronica Wadley has been rewarded for her services to Boris's election campaign with a cushy new arts job.

All we need now is for Ian Clement to run Boris's expenses regime and we'll have the full set.

So much for the End of Cronyism at City Hall

Friday, 4 June 2010

Andy 4 Mayor!

With just two weeks to go there seems little sign of another contender stepping forward to become Labour's candidate for the 2012 Mayoral election.

So in order to spice things up a bit I would like to nominate a man who is simply made for the job:

In fact the more I think about it, the more perfect he seems in every way.

So come on Andy, put yourself forward. London can and must say yes!

-Update- Sat 5: Very sad to hear Andrew ruling out a run for Mayor on Ken Livingstone's LBC show this morning. Truly it is a great loss.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

BNP try to sneak back into Barking

After losing every seat that they held in the borough, the BNP are now trying to sneak back into Barking and Dagenham.

Defeated candidate Richard Barnbrook has forced his successor's resignation after discovering that she was working for the Council during the elections.

The BNP will now attempt to usher Richard back into his old seat on a low turnout.

So what great conflict of interest and public corruption was Ms Couling involved in?

And what evil deed has Richard Barnbrook bravely revealed?

Oh yes that's right, she was a lollipop lady.

Great work there Richard. Your former constituents must really miss you.

Boris accused of gerrymandering the Fire Authority

Boris Johnson is being accused of "gerrymandering" as he tries to keep the Conservatives in charge of the Fire Authority despite big election losses.

The Tories had been expected to lose their majority on LFEPA after their disappointing local election results last month.

However, the Mayor has now decided to change the way seats are allocated in order to maintain a "strong leadership" of the board.

The current chair Brian Coleman will also be kept on despite the many controversies of the past two years.

Justifying his proposals Boris wrote that:

"I believe that at a time when there are many important decisions to be taken about the modernisation of London's fire and emergency planning arrangements it is important that the authority's constitution enables it to act decisively."

In order to do this, Boris is to increase the number of Conservative Assembly members on the board from three to four and decrease Labour's share from three to two.

This is despite the fact that there has been no change in the makeup of the Assembly since the 2008 elections.

As a sop to the Labour group, they will be given an extra seat on the soon to be scrapped Metropolitan Police Authority instead.

The Conservatives argue that the current constitution is unfair with Labour holding the same amount of Assembly seats on LFEPA despite having fewer Assembly members overall.

However, the Chair of the London Assembly Dee Doocey has written to Boris asking him to reconsider his proposals. He has not replied.

Brian Coleman has also written to the Lib Dems asking them to climb into his big Conservative bed on the fire authority.

I understand that this generous offer will be refused.

Snipe London: The Big Squeeze

My latest column for Snipe is now online. Head over there to read more about the big squeeze that's coming for London commuters.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

If not Ken Livingstone then who?

There are those within the Labour party who argue that Ken Livingstone cannot beat Boris Johnson and that another candidate should be chosen instead.

They complain that the selection process is being stitched up by Ken and that if he would only allow another candidate through, then Labour would romp home in 2012.

Now there is no doubt that as things stand, the odds are against Ken Livingstone returning as Mayor in two years time.

But the question that his Labour critics must answer is, if not Ken then who?

If they don't think that Ken can beat Boris, then why do they think that Oona King would beat him instead? And if not Oona, then who else is going to step forward to give it a go?

Because if Ken is such a bad choice to be Labour's candidate then where are the legions of better candidates beating down the door to City Hall?

As Pippa Crerar reports from Ken's campaign launch today:

"Livingstone was in bullish mood challenging the long list of "fantasy candidates" (Alan Johnson, Peter Mandelson, Sir Alan Sugar et al) to stand against him for the Labour nomination. "If I dropped dead there would be a rush of people," he said. "I think a lot of people like Lord Mandelson think they won't beat me so they're not standing. There's always been this weakness among politicians, they fear losing."

Because the problem for the Labour leadership is that although they never wanted Ken as their candidate, they have never found anyone with the guts or the ability to take him on either.

Be it in the first Mayoral election when Blair failed to stop him, or in the second Mayoral election when Blair took the humiliating decision to take him back, the Labour leadership have often tried and often failed to see Livingstone off.

And the truth is that although they are complaining about a stitch up now, there is absolutely nothing stopping their chosen candidate from coming forward to give it another go.

So where is this unbeatable all-powerful candidate they have so often spoken of but never named?

Who is this person and when do we all finally get to meet them?

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