The predicament of being Labour in London

It’s fair to say I am on the rubbish end of being a member of the Labour Party. To give just one example of how rubbish I am, in 2010 I temporarily left the party to vote Lib-Dem. I came back of course (I always do), but I am pretty sure I’ll not be winning any ‘member of the year’ competition any time soon.

I love the party, I really do, even though I do treat it with contempt at times. Labour values; Labour history; Labour’s world view are where I instinctively feel most at home. And I want to support the party – both financially and with my time. But when it picks a candidate or campaigns on the back of a manifesto that I believe does not adhere to these values then I have a problem.

And so to London and Ken Livingstone. I still find it utterly bewildering that Labour members in London would score such a massive own goal as to vote for him to be our candidate in the first place. Could we really not find anyone else? Were we that scared of Boris that a ‘big personality’ was the be all and all – even when that personality had become so out-of-step,odious and corrupt?

It’s true that Ken did some good things first time around, particularly in his first term. The congestion charge and the massive spending on transport infrastructure are but two legacies he should be proud of. His response to 7/7 was measured and unifying and, for this, he deserves thanks from all Londoners. By the end of his second term however he was beginning to look tired and stale, and even back then there was a certain whiff of wrongness about him. A few too many crass off-the-cuff remarks, a few too many friends benefitting from his role.

Four years to listen and plan might have brought us a more reflective Livingstone, an experienced elder statesman ready to guide us through these difficult post credit-crunch times. But this has not been the case. Instead he is more combative and unapologetic than ever – no remorse, or even explanation over his anti-semitic remarks (and, remember, he is a repeat offender here), not a backward-step on the hypocrisy over his tax dealings and now, as his transport plans unravel around his ears, again we witness a now all-too-familiar reluctance to face-up to the reality that all around can already see.

All this means that on 3rd May my first preference vote will not be going to a Labour candidate, though he is welcome to my 2nd preference – when it comes to Boris v Ken he is very much the lesser of two evils. As for who will get that magic ‘1’? I haven’t decided yet, though I think Siobhan Benita has been running an excellent campaign and is definitely worthy of consideration – her policies on Education in particular are well worth a read.

I realise that this post may be treated with derision by the many dedicated Labour activists who are working so hard to campaign for a Labour victory and to them I apologise (and point out that for the Assembly elections I’ll be Labour all the way). But on this occasion I must once again turn my back on the official Labour candidate and look elsewhere for traditional Labour values.

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