Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
We discussed the arrest of Damien Green. Ken was interested to know why Boris Johnson had been informed when he didn't see it as a matter for the mayor. Clearly this depends on the role of the mayor in the Metroplitan Police Authority. This has become rather ambiguous and disputed. It looked like Johnspn had abused his power over the resignation of Sir Ian Blair, while he now has a job on his hands to keep the Met onside. The Deputy Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson has been heavily involved in Green's arrest and now it looks like Johnson won't want to work with him either.
There is a simple solution. That is for politicians not to get involved in day to day policing. They must remain independent to protect them from political interference and protect us all from any sort of mob rule.
Read further on Tory Troll.
I also discussed with Ken the future of New Labour. It has been widely reported that he sees New Labour as dead as a result of banking crisis. He likened me to Peter Mandelson. I laughed. Thing is, I agree with Mandelson that New Labour is still alive. People often forget that Gordon Brown was central to the whole New Labour project. Without him it wouldn't have been possible at all.
I hope to pick this up with Livingstone again soon. LBC, 97.3, London's conversation, Saturdays, 10:00.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Lansley was both misguided and insensitive. It shows that many of the Tories haven't changed. At the 1997 election the Tories said of the harsh economic climate a few years earlier "yes it hurt, yes it worked." Their premise is that job losses are a price worth paying for a stronger economy. Kou agreed, saying that many jobs are worthless. I disagree.
Our economy is based on work providing enough to pay for our living costs. Without that most people's lifestyles will fall apart. We saw in the 1980s that many families and whole parts of Britain never recovered from the closure of industry.
I accept that many people naively thought the economy, house prices and the stock market would grow continuously. This is clearly not the case. However, a recession will be bad for families, under financial pressure and facing the threat of losing their homes and jobs.
The side effect of recession is poverty, often higher crime, family breakdown, higher alcoholism and drug taking.
Of course there will be some positive side effects of recession. People will become more frugal, use less energy and waste less. This is a good thing. However, this is a nasty lesson to learn and one most people would rather avoid. I'd like to have the same discussion in a year's time and see whether the callers to the show still agreed that recession would be OK, once they'd had to suffer the effects.
You can listen again to the show here and clicking on Wednesday.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Labour has put together a package that at the very least seeks to stimulate the ailing economy. This is set against a Tory Party that cynically states the solutions won't work. The Tory solution is minimal action because they don't believe in government as the answer to problems. The Tories have retreated to their ideological home ground of minimal government and laissez-faire economics.
It is simply not acceptable to allow banks to go to the wall or to leave the poor and low earners without any help when help is available. Labour is certainly trying. Peeling back the surface and starting to look at the details and the picture becomes a little murky. Clearly high levels of public borrowing will have to be paid for over many years. Borrowing increases to levels higher than in previous recessions. However after previous recessions, such as in the 1990s, the government of the day didn't seek to stimulate the economy like this. The economic threat globally was not as great. Darling has sought to make higher earners pay for the borrowing, in future years. This could work and is certainly fair, however is dependent on Labour winning the next election.
Brown and Darling have taken a huge political gamble. It was one worth taking because it offers a glimmer of hope at a time when the Tories have offered nothing.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
My Labour Party colleagues, notably Cllrs Catherine West, Richard Watts and Paul Smith have been persistently aiming charges of wastefulness at the Lib Dem leadership. It is good to see one of them agree.
Do the Lib Dems allow Cornwall to stay in the group? They are not known for their forgiveness, however at the same time I can't imagine them pressing the nuclear button: kicking Cornwall out and losing control over what they dubbed the flagship Lib Dem council.
Cornwall won't join Labour. He has just been responsible for selling off scores of council property and was heavily criticised by Labour for doing so. Whether he might vote with Labour remains possible. It all depends on how deep his rift with the rest of the Lib Dems is. I'll be at the council meeting on December 4 to find out.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The stated aim of Progressive London is to keep together the coalition of anti-Tory votes that Livingstone sought to keep him in office. Uniting politicians and activists across party lines is ambitious. There will be some who see this as Ken's declaration of candidacy for the 2012 elections. Mobilising a campaign for 2012 it might be, mobilising a campaign for Ken, I'm not sure. Ken might want that, I don't think it is that feasible. Labour will need to make a new choice and do so in two ore three years time.
For any alliance to work will require a common enemy. Boris Johnson will therefore need to keep antagonising those who didn't vote for him. Increasing transport fares in January will help, as will the bungled handling of Sir Ian Blair's stepping down as head of the Metropolitan Police. If BJ hadn't exercised powers he didn't hold in making Blair's position untenable, there would be no row over how much he is being paid to quit. I'm confident that the common enemy will remain, however an alliance also needs common solutions.
Common solutions stem from a shared vision. So far Ken's alliance looks like one that can run. It should do because so far the backers are predominantly Labour, with a smattering of Lib Dems and Greens. I'll be interested to see if the alliance can really take on a cross party feel. If it does, it will stand a chance of being listened to as something more powerful than simply Ken Livingstone's mouthpiece.
Pippa Crerar's Evening Standard blog
Tory Troll: one of the speakers at the Progressive London conference in January
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
After some posts about bendy buses and transport fares in London "anonymous" commented on my blog. The timing of the comments coincided with a hot on my blog from the Associated Newspapers IP address. "Anonymous" had used a Technorati blog feed with the key words "Andrew Gilligan" as the search terms. Coincidence? During the Mayoral election I frequently got hits from the same IP address and with the same referrer. The use of language by "anonymous" also bears great resemblance to Gilligan's writing, using terms such as the "Ken Livingstone fan club."
On a personal note I've never been an ardent fan of Ken, though I came to believe that on balance, London was a better place after eight years with him in charge than if someone else had won.
I used to ban anonymous comments for this very reason. I'd much prefer an open and honest debate where people can agree and disagree. I don't see what there is to hide. Not least from a high profile journalist when his views are well known. I'm also quite prepared for people to point out if I am wrong, though I'd rather never be wrong...
Dave Hill's blog
Tory Troll's current discussion. Previous accusations, including mention that Gilligan was up to it in 1995 as a student can also be found.
Monday, November 03, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Mandelson will always give as good as he gets. George Osbourne was naive to think he could make Mandelson's criticisms of Gordon Brown public and get away with it. Bringing Mandelson back was still a good move by Brown. At the very least the media is now talking about the Tories and about Mandelson and has left Brown to get on with his job.
I expect Mandelson to survive the current maelstrom of media attention. It doesn't look like he has done anything wrong. He hadn't broken any rules previously with the loan from Geoffrey Robinson or the Hinduja passport "affair." Contacts between powerful businessmen and powerful politicians may look distasteful but it is naive to think they will never happen or never did.
Osbourne has now apologised: "To be honest this didn't look very good and that's something I regret." Both parties have slung mud at each other. Nothing can be proven either way. Mandelson can live with the attacks. It is going to be interesting to see how the Tories deal with their first real public scrutiny in some time.
State funding of political parties would of course remove many of the suspected underhand deals between business and politics. Neither of the main parties want this as they both seem to be infected by the desire to woo big business and big donations.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Cameron's focus was very much traditional Conservatism. His focus was on the family and small government as the remedies to the so called "broken society." This was predictable and showed Cameron appealing to his core vote, socially and economically conservative with a big and a small c. Brown's speech was a similar appeal to his party who needed reassurance that he was up to the job. Cameron didn't need to do that, but still touched on the Tory hot spots.
By stating his priority to be low taxes and praising Thatcher's economic revolution Cameron was appealing to a Tory party that hasn't changed its values. The Tory part has changed, but only in that it now has the confidence to appeal to the country and behave like they expect to govern.
The lack of belief in government to enact positive change is the sort of Thatcherite mantra that dominated the 1980s of my childhood. "People create jobs, not government" stated Cameron. couple this with tax cuts and falling tax revenue in a declining economy and this signals severe cuts. Cameron won't say that now, but if the Tories win we'll see it happen. The Tories have shown this in local government in Hammersmith and Fulham.
The claim that the Tories are the party of NHS is laughable. However, t many in the Labour Party and on the left play into Tory hands and prepare the ground for Cameron to make that kind of claim by constantly complaining about details when the NHS is substantively better than it was ten years ago. When do you hear of patients left to die on trolleys each winter? That was commonplace when I grew up and simply doesn't happen anymore.
I was angered when Cameron claimed that Labour doesn't believe in community, that we only believe in government and individuals. By the end of his speech Cameron was aggressive and in his pomp. I've no doubt he'll rise to whatever challenge Brown sets. What is clear is that Labour has been divided and introspective, while the Tories are united and talking to the country.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
BJ has vowed to rid London of bendy buses by 2015 even though his term ends in 2012. BJ is aiming to sign new contracts for new buses running past his term in office. This year I've travelled around Europe a little and have seen the same buses on the streets of Helsinki, Tallin, Hamburg, Berlin and Brussels. In the UK we have them in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham.
This whole bus obession is little more than the euqivalent of the vanity projects BJ and his team criticised the previous mayor for. Political Animals provide a great breakdown of these. The Cross River Tram would make a tremendous difference to parts of London like Peckham and Camberwell, which suffer from dreadful transport links at present. The cost of this against the potential costs of a new bus that doesn't yet exist or an airport on an island in the Thames Estuary doesn't compare.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
He started well and themes of fairness and being on 'your' side worked well. Brown needs to keep on at this as a key differentiator between Labour and Tories. There is a gulf but nobody will know if Labour never make it explicit:
"Just think where our country would be if we'd listened to them. No paternity leave, no New Deal, no Bank of England independence, no Sure Start, no devolution, no civil partnerships, no minimum wage, no new investment in the NHS, no new nurses, no new police, no new schools."So let's hear no more from the Conservatives - we did fix the roof while the sun was shining."
Gordon, where have you been? The rabble rousing, tub-thumping, robust policy laden speeches of the past seemed to have disappeared but there were glimpses yesterday of the Prime Minister we all thought we were going to get. Jonathan Freedland writes well about this.
Focusing on himself as the only person to steer Britain through troubled economic times was expected but important. This unique value proposition marks him against Cameron-Osbourne well. Brown took decisive action last week to allow Lloyds TSB to take over HBOS and for me, that was the start of the Brown fight-back.
BBC's John Pienaar, together with The Sun's Trevor Kavanagh on Five Live after the speech yesterday stated today that Brown's speech served it's primary purpose - to get the party back onside. Telling the party that"fairness is in our DNA" was an easy, but important point scorer. So far it appears to have broadly brought the party back onside. This was a stay of execution, Brown has more time now.
According to The Sun:
"This speech won Mr Brown precious breathing space. But his exhausted face revealed the strain this battle for survival is inflicting.
His ‘great clunking fist’ still managed to land a blow on David Cameron. Mr Brown portrayed the Tory leader as a carpet-bagger selling snake oil and patent cure-alls.
Mr Cameron must respond next week by filling the gaping holes in Tory policy — on Europe, taxes, spending and the NHS."
With a stronger team and (hopefully) showing the robustness of yesterday to the country, Brown needs to attack the Tories and to show the country why he said yesterday of the Tories:
"And when salesmen won't tell you what they are selling, it's because they are selling something no-one should buy."
For now, the challenge is with the Tories, but Brown will need to respond.
Yesterday the old Brown was back. I hope he stays.
I'm worried that this gimmicky policy hasnb't been thought through and that the consequences for London are manifold:
- Longer journey times: buses will take longer to board so will spend longer at stops
- More blockages at bus stops: spending longer at bus stops means buses will block spaces at busy stops, such as those at Angel, creating more congestion
- More carbon emssions: using smaller buses than at present means more buses on our streets to keep the same capacity, this means more emissions
- Higher costs: more buses and more staff will be more expensive
- More overcrowding: smaller buses on the busiest routes will mean less pleasant journeys. The bendy buses are already full, so replacing them with smaller buses seems a lunacy
In my opinion, MySpace has the edge over Facebook in hosting content, which should mean it becomes a hub of activity during November's elections.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
- Labour is unpopular, especially Gordon Brown
- Labour is bankrupt
- Labour can't afford a general election
- Labour can't afford a leadership election
- The economy is in turmoil, we don't need political turmoil too
No political party will ever be successful if it is preoccupied with naval-gazing and in-fighting. The electorate only ever takes notice of political parties that offer solutions to their problems, look disciplined and cohesive. Labour offers none of these at the moment. Laying the blame for this might be fun but is futile. Labour would look even worse to the electorate by triggering a leadership election and engaging in even more naval gazing and blame laying.
In the 1970s and 1980s Labour tore out itself apart and the country wasn't interested. In the 1990s the Tories tore themselves to pieces and the country switched off. Why hasn't the Labour Party remembered this primal lesson?
However, both Labour and the Tories learnt to change their leader to make themselves more popular, but only when an alternative leader was more popular with the public. Labour switched to John Smith in 1992, then chose Blair. The Tories were quick to dump Thatcher when it looked like they would lose.
Conversely, there wouldn't be any of this bickering if people were happy with Brown's performance. He needs to start behaving like the political bruiser he was made out to be. He is meant to be an expert on finance and economics so it would be good to hear Brown offering solutions to the meltdown of our under-regulated financial sector. The economic woes fill the news at the moment but there is very little comment from Brown or Labour about what we are going to do about it.
"At our best when at our boldest" Blair once said. If only Brown would listen.
Interesting notes from the Boris Johnson's recent Mayor's question time. He is carrying out his pledge to banish bendy buses from our streets. As the contracts expire on each route they will be replaced. First will be the "Red Arrow" 507 and 521 buses between Waterloo & Victoria/London Bridge. There doesn't seem to be any explanation yet as to how the overall capacity on these routes will be made up with running smaller buses.
Routes 38, 29 and 73 are to follow. Whatever replaces them will be slower and carry less people. Has this really been thought through?
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
In my first post-university job I screened PFI bids. PFI bids were normally deemed "better value" than direct public investment because of the transfer of risk to the private sector. The risk of delay and spiralling costs was with the private, not public sector.
The Guardian quotes tube boss Tim O'Toole as stating that without full funding for the PPP, "The infrastructure is so old and unreliable that we are going to see a contraction in capacity," - London cannot cope and needs more capacity, not less.
Boris Johnson has stated he will go to the Department for Transport to seek additional funding. This represents a test of how the Labour government will work with a Tory mayor - or not. For London's sake I hope that Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly opts in the best interests of Londoners and pays up. I worried political point scoring might win and our tube may crumble.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
By 2005 (three years ago) over 80% of tube and bus journeys were made on Oyster cards, report contractor Transys.
Gilligan has fired a political shot at the former mayor in trying to bolster the current one after Boris Johnson announced large rises in public transport fares.
Update: information on former mayor Ken Livingstone's fare changes for the start of 2008, when cash fares did not increase. Season tickets did rise, though this is because they include payments to the rail operators in London, who are not regulated by the Mayor.
Friday, September 05, 2008
After seeing BJ hike pulblic transport fares at the first possible opportunity, it is foolhardy to spend £100m on designing a new bus. BJ's specification will result in less capacity on London's busiest bus routes. It could also cause more delays. Bendy buses can stop, load and unload very quickly because there are three sets of doors and a single deck. Double deckers can be very slow. Just compare the 38 (bendy) and 19 (double decker) at Angel.
This is hardly efficient. This is pointless. This is also unfair on people who need public transport most. Less buses, higher fares. Tory all over. It didn't take long.
Ken Livingstone put it succinctly:
"London has a Mayor who transfers millions of pounds from ordinary Londoners who use public transport to drivers of gas guzzlers and residents of Kensington and Chelsea."
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
What is Boris in City Hall for? What does he want to do? So far all we have are increases to public transport fares at the expense of every Londoner to curry favour with the Chelsea set and their gas guzzlers. I'm disgusted. I'm not surprised at all.
Transport and environmental projects like the Oxford Street Tram (which he claimed to support in his manifesto), Cross River Tram and instead wasting money on replacing the much needed bendy buses with something smaller and less adequate on our busiest bus routes.
Boris' only plans before he was elected were to sort out crime and make City Hall more efficient. Crime is an almost impossible problem to fix, at least in four short years. Efficiency - he has made cuts, though has also spent heavily on staff and employing a chauffeur for himself.
BJ has plan for London. I'm worried. Central Office should be too.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Cameron wants to denigrate today's society and is positioning himself as best placed to fix it. Aside from my view that the Cameron/Osbourne proposals (supporting marriage, being tough on crime, fewer tax credits) to fix the breaks are likely to make things worse not better, I think we really need to highlight how this analysis is wrong in the first place. Therefore BJ's intervention is most helpful. Of course there are social problems in Britain, but to claim that Britain is socially broken is both cynical and wrong.
Cameron needs to tar British society with the brush of failure because governments lose elections and for Labour to lose they need to be shown to have failed. However, aside from political necessity I think this analysis is more dangerous. In the same way that talking of a looming economic recession can damage business and consumer confidence leading to lower spending and investment and recession, talk of a broken society can make people feel less safe, more cynical and negative about their neighbourhood.
I don't always agree with him, but on this occasion Jack Straw is exactly right:
Boris Johnson has exposed David Cameron's mantra that Britain is broken for what it is: Piffle.
'Only this week, the Tory leader was again saying our country is broken. Yet today the mayor has been frank in his opposition to his leader's claim, which has always been the most cynical nonsense.
'Whatever David Cameron might say, Britain is a decent, compassionate and vibrant nation, and on almost every measure it has got better in the past decade. No one has broken Britain and no one ever will.'Our country is not broken like Cameron wants to claim, far from it. We should not write off our young people otherwise we may get the response we deserve. Hopefully our mayor can show the leadership where he has so far failed and ensure London's young are not written off.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
BBC London radio and others are reporting that another of Boris Johnson's fabled deputy mayors has quit. This really is getting a little careless. Latest one is union buster Tim Parker, a canny double for BJ's sports commissioner, Kate Hoey. And yes, I do think she should be kicked out of the Labour Party.
Parker has apprently resigned as he thought it inappropriate for an unelected official to hold the positions of First Depurty Mayor and Chair of Transport for London. I couldn't agree more. London may have elected Jonson, they elected him to lead London, not a team of co-opted Tory cronies.
Monday, August 04, 2008
Writing at Labourhome, John Prescott claims that "it wasn’t the Captain that sank the Titanic – a ship they claimed was unsinkable - it was the iceberg. The best way to avoid disaster is to manage your way around the problem...For me, it’s all about setting the right course. That’s why I’ve always favoured policy over personality and why I believe Gordon’s the right captain."
Favouring policy over personality is a virtuous ideal but politics isn't ideal. New Labour's success was based on pushing a slick, well branded personality politics onto the country when politics had become tired after the Major years. In London recently Boris Johnson won a battle of personality politics over Ken Livingstone. This is the battleground on which political fights are won. Without the personality the policy doesn't matter.
Gordon Brown has become a victim of this. Media commentators have decided that the Tories are credible for the first time in a generation and that Brown is not. Once momentum is lost and is running against you it is impossible to regain. However, a new leader might not be the answer, as last week's polls showed that Labour would be just as unpopular with David Milliband at the helm. Labour cannot afford a leadership election financially, let alone a general election that would become impossible to resist if a new leader were elected.
Labour is faced with Hobson's choice. It would be far simpler if the party showed discipline. To backed a Brown leadership the party and country needs to see him offering strong leadership and fresh ideas. At the moment that isn't the case. I fear that the party could end up in the worst of all positions, new leader, new elections and yet the same result than if Brown stays = defeat.
This is likely because Labour feels rudderless with the party and country reacting to the media fervour for blood. Following the media rather than leading it, new Labour was once famed for doing the latter, is exactly what put Labour in this mess in the first place. The nonsense over the election that never was permanently damaged Brown's leadership credentials and he has never recovered. At the time I thought a general election unnecessary yet the speculation was only nipped in the bud when the damage was already done.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
DUP MP Iris Robinson is one such example of why my thoughts that the UK is a progressive country can be mis-guided. After recently suggesting that homosexuals should be referred to psyhchiatrists fro "treatment" she has gone one better and has now publicly likened her abhorrence for paedophilia to homosexualty. She said:
"I cannot think of anything more sickening than a child being abused. It is comparable to the act of homosexuality. I think they are all comparable. I feel totally repulsed by both."
I'm totally repulsed by Robinson. She has apparently felt the need to act becuase:
"“I am speaking out more now because we are getting it more and more rammed down our throats that the minority views are more important than the majority views. I am not trying to alienate anyone. Anyone can come to me with any problems. I do not turn anyone away."
I can't see any children in her consituency who have suffered homophobic bullying feeling like their MP will provide the answers they need. This sort of vile hatred simply makes that sort of behaviour more acceptable.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
BJ's team, in training before they (hope to) move to Downing Street after the next election is depleted and is continually defending itself from multiple accusations. At first sight it looks like little planning went into the construction of BJ's team, Ray Lewis' background clearly wasn't looked into, otherwise I can't imagine he would have been appointed. His planning deputy Sir Simon Milton had to step down after the legality of his role was questioned while at the same time as leading Westminster City Council.
Today Boris Johnson announced that he wants to cut 15% of the GLA's spending. He has tried to pass all his powers to unelected deputies or back to the boroughs. The GLA was established to take strategic decisions that the 32 boroughs (+ the City) couldn't take by themselves. Johnson is trying to degrade the post of Mayor. Before the election I spoke of the need for city mayors to take bold decisions, build capital projects, host festivals and build pride into city life. Very quickly Johnson has shown he has no interest in this.
Charges that can easily be levelled at Johnson are many of the same that his team and the Evening Standard leveraged against Ken Livingstone to get him elected in the first place:
- Cronyism - his "independent Forensic Audit Panel that "investigated" the spending of the LDA under Livingstone was nothing but a Tory whitewash
- Waste - Brain Coleman's taxi bill, Johnson's use of a Government Car Service private chauffeur, all the wages for his "interim team" and legion of deputies
The problem we face is that most Londoners no longer care about this now the election is over. Boris is doing his best to do nothing as mayor, why be mayor if he doesn't believe in the office?
Friday, June 27, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The mayor is meant to be scrutinised by the assembly. This is supplemented by media scrutiny. The assembly's role is set by law and is quite limited., largely to investigation of issues. Scrutiny of the mayor is tempered because politically the assembly needs a two thirds majority to veto the mayor's budget. With 11 of 25 current members Tory (44%), this is unlikely.
The media's role isn't set by law but is more important in brining City Hall closer to the electorate. The Evening Standard's high profile campaign against Livingstone at the recent election brought the whole event a much higher profile. Johnson campained on the basis that he would be a more transparent, accountable mayor. So far the evidence is that he is being less open and less accountable. This goes against what he campaigned for and makes a little understood institution more distant from Londoners.
Johnson has limited journalists to a single question, while Livingstone, widely known as a master of detail, stayed available until all questions had been answered. Even the Standard are pointing this out. One London's Damian Hockney isn't impressed and neither am I: "one question per journo, Boris? Come on, you're not Madonna or David Beckham - that's how anyone who doesn't want to answer a question deals with accountability."
During the election Johnson was certainly kept from talking to the press and it looks like this is set to continue.
Johnson pledged to bring in people's question times, a great idea, however only two are planned per year. My feeling is that the overall level of scrutiny will be far less under this mayor. This isn't a good start, though hardly a surprising one.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Therefore I was shocked to find that BJ's "handover" team is going to cost at least £465,000. This team is simply there to aid the transition to a new administration, not to actually run it. When much fuss was made over the salaries to officials like TfL's Peter Hendy, this revelation is at least a surprise and at most a disgrace.
ToryTroll reports that this is 70% of the cost to pay BJ's full time team for a whole year, while these "consultants" and Tory activists will only be working for between one and six months.
I sat at several mayoral election debates where BJ constantly berated Ken for the type of people he had employed and how much he paid them. He clearly doesn't feel the need to apply the same standards he expects of others to himself.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Conrad Black really does have some guts. Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague's buddy has had his legal fees paid by the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper, despite him being in prison for defrauding that company. Someone please explain that.
Black and his three co-convicts have collectively received $70m in legal fees defending themselves from charges of defrauding $6m from the company. I will be watching this carefully as Black's appeal is due to be heard next week (June 5) with a ruling on the Sun-Times' fees to follow later, presumably after they've paid out more for the appeal.
What a wonderful concept. I rob Peter to pay Paul and then get Peter to pay for my trial.
Crime really does come free.
Indeed, the Parliamentary Transport Select Committee reported in 2002 that "it is however apparent that the position on risk has moved dramatically in favour of the private sector companies" - this is obviously what happened.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I don't have a problem with bendy buses. This whole debate is a smokescreen for what London's transport really needs. More capacity, more high speed transit, tubes and trams.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I also picked up from the Standard itself (great to see some balanced reporting) that BJ's transport advisor Kulveer Ranger admitted that a hop on - hop off bus might not be possible. Now the idea seems to be to bring an iconic design to London, a slight departure from the original Routemaster pledge.
I'm delighted that my assembly member Jennette Arnold took the Chair today. I heard her on LBC's breakfast show this morning and I know she is very proud to be the first female to chair the assembly. It has also given her national press exposure. Early reports seem to show that the wit and quips mostly absent from the election campaign are back from Boris. I hope he doesn't use these to divert attention from the seriousness of the job.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I've often said that a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for the Tories, not just because we have a two party system. In 1979 the Liberals voted with the Tories to let in Thatcher in the vote of confidence. In local government there are plenty of examples of Tories supporting the Lib Dems and vice versa. Southwark, Lambeth , Birmingham...
When people claim the Lib Dems are a left wing party they should think about this first and realise their vote goes straight into the Tory pocket.
I highlighted the backlash over Labour sending supporters around the Crewe and Nantwich by-election dressed as toffs. Not a wise move when one of them was privately educated. I know the "other one" and he was not. Perhaps a few checks there might have been wise. The Daily Mirror was the only newspaper to cover David Cameron's professional huntsman being the first person to be taken to court over fox hunting since the 2004 Hunting Act. Cameron a toff? Lord no!
I also mentioned the potential black hole in the Crossrail finances. It will be interesting to see whether Johnson chooses to raise fares for any cost over-run or if he will persuade the Treasury to help out. I just can't see a Labour run government helping him out. Forcing Johnson into raising fares would potentially make him unpopular so I think that might be forced upon him. The private sector has already invested heavily in the project so I can see any further requests for funds falling on deaf ears. The East London Advertiser reports that Gordon Brown might choose to shelve the project. This would be disastrous for London.
I enjoyed the radio slot and hope to be featuring again soon.
Ken Livingstone has today agreed to host a phone in show on LBC 97.3 FM. It'll be great to have Ken back in the public sphere. Whatever people think of him, I think most Londoners respect his career commitment to the city and his wit. In the election he seemed tired so I look forward to hearing his wise cracks again.
Indeed, BBC quoted LBC programme director Jonathan Richards: "Ken Livingstone brings unique insight to LBC.
"After eight years as Mayor of London, no-one knows this city and its people better."
Friday, May 16, 2008
Apparently the group was a violation of the sites terms because it attacks a group or individual. This seems to be very heavy handed when a quick search of any major company name brings up scores of groups dedicated to criticising them.
An acquaintance of mine was banned from Facebook when a friend of his had jokingly flagged his account as having "objectionable content." He was banned automatically and is now on Facebook under a false name.
I have joined the "Bring Back Boris Watch" group - lets see if BJ's team get that banned too. This saga could really roll on...for about four years...
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Whenever I want to amuse myself I take a look to see what rubbish Leon Trotsky's disciples are spouting. Apparently, Ken Livingstone lost the mayoralty because "by promoting policies that centred on building the capital as a centre for world finance." This is obviously why the Tories won and the Left List candidate only polled 22,000 votes. If anyone seriously thought Ken was too right wing there cannot have been too many of them using that statistic.
You can read the rest of the Socialist Workers Party "analysis" for yourself. Like all their prose it was far too long winded for my short attention span.
Friday, May 09, 2008
Thursday, May 08, 2008
I am a big fan of James Purnell and in the latest New Statesman he argues the very same thing. It is another as to whether Labour will successfully do so. Set out a bold vision showing that Labour really wants to remove children from poverty to open up opportunity. Because we believe this to be morally right, not because we think it will make people vote for us, like Cameron's Conservatives.
Be bold, be Labour, then make a concerted effort to show why a Labour government will be better and different from a Tory government that pays lip service to social justice. It pays lip service because New Labour has shifted the centre of political gravity after ten years in power. Don't forget that. Otherwise, why would the Tories even be talking about poverty? When I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, they denied it was even an issue.
Marking out clear divisions between Labour and Tories might also help recapture voters who have become cynical of political parties and have ceased to engage in the political process. This is the challenge for Brown. He needs to meet it, otherwise I fear for the future.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Labour needs to avoid an internal massacre, now is not the time for root and branch change. The recent elections were always likely to be tough, being in the third term. However, Labour needs to take a few relatively easy steps towards salvation. I even find myself agreeing with Ann McElvoy on this.
I was asked to speak (as a follower of Progress) on Simon Mayo's BBC Radio Five Live show yesterday lunch time about where Labour should head from here. There was some common agreement between the guests, Graham Stringer MP, Khalid Mahmoud MP, Michael Meacher MP, Lorraine Davidson and Gavin Hayes (Compass) that Gordon Brown doesn't have much more than six to twelve months to show strong leadership. Views differed about how exactly Brown should improve his and Labour's fortunes.
Brown needs to communicate a clear and consistent message. At the moment I find it difficult to crystallise what his leadership is trying to achieve. The same couldn't be said for Blair, whether right or wrong.
Brown needs to make public services more responsive to peoples' needs, making their lives easier, not more complicated. This means simplifying the over bureaucratic (but redistributive) tax credits system and better communicating the changes to (particularly) the NHS. Longer opening hours for GP surgeries is a fantastic change, making the lives of many much better. However, like the Young Fabian mentioned in McElvoy's article, many of those potential Labour voters who I speak to, do not correlate changes like this, the minimum wage, or better buses in London, with Labour.
Labour also needs to talk about aspiration and talk to the whole country, not retreating to the core vote. This is dangerous and will only lead us towards the nadir or 1983, much as the Tories did in 2001.
Labour needs to rediscover under Brown the secrets of the success of the mid 1990s. There is a young team in the cabinet in Balls, Milliband, Milliband and Purnell who should be able to match Cameron's Tory team. The success of the mod 1990s was based on a young team, strong PR and communications focused on providing solutions to what people wanted. The young team needs to harness this approach. I also wonder what the PR experts recently appointed by Brown have planned. They need to act fast.
You can listen to my thoughts when I manage to upload the excerpt, or the whole debate (click on Tuesday, this will work until Tuesday 13 May 2008), I come on about 32 minutes in, after the sports news.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
The Electoral Commisson has spent a great deal of effort and money running ads in all of the London newspapers and at bus stops reminding people that there is an election. I'm sure everyone knows there is an election on. I'm also sure most people don't really get how the preferential Alternative Vote system works.
Voters get two choices as I'm sure my readership knows. Of course, those voting for Ken or Johnson for Mayor only really get one. The second preferences only count for those voting for candidates finishing outside the top two after the first choices are counted. Only in the last decade has Britain moved away from plurality (First Past the Post) voting to more proportional voting systems for regional and European elections.
It probably doesn't matter that much that some people might not make a second preference as most will vote Labour or Tory. What does matter is much of the effort in explaining the voting system has been left to partisan door-to-door canvassers and party literature. How about using some of the broadcast slots reserved for party election broadcasts for a spot by the Electoral Commission to actually explain this in a neutral way?
Thursday, April 17, 2008
I'm pleased the total lack of substance to Johnson's "flagship" transport "policy" has finally been exposed. I have been writing for weeks that this new fabled replacement to the bendy bus doesn't even exist on a drawing board, let alone on any streets.
Dave Hill gives a fantastic account of the spiralling costs of the pie in the sky costing of this policy. This includes last week's Newsnight debate where Paxman persistently asked Johnson to cost his policy, which he could not do. Last month Hill quoted one of my posts and asked that despite the fact I am ""Labour-focussed," but does that mean a lot of neutrals aren't thinking the same thing?" Good question. I think they are thinking that.
Now that all polls show both candidates neck and neck, the real challenge starts for Johnson to prove himself. As polling day nears it will be almost impossible for Lynton Crosby to keep him out of the news and this must be a good thing for Livingstone.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
The Gilligan - Johnson team has constantly attacked Ken's aides like Lee Jasper and civil servants, Peter Hendy of TfL. Surely this should open Johnson up for questions about his own team. Hypocritcally, he has refused to say who they are. That isn't fair game, though politics has never been fair. Johnson will not say because he is protecting them and becuase his master, Lynton Crosby has been working hard to keep attention away from Johnson and on Livingstone. The less exposure Johnson has the less damage he can do.
Ken seeks a third term just has he is becoming more radical and has really grown into what was an unknown job in 2000. London needs his vision and ambition and it looks like he is finally coming into his own.
Johnson is "flakey" according to Michael White. I agree. He has made much of his "plan" to replace bendy buses with a new Routemaster. On LBC this morning he admitted that "The bus we are going to bring in is not yet on the drawing board,'' so why make a play of something you can't deliver?
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
In today's Guardian Society John Vidal appraises the leading candidates, quoting numerous 'greens' who variously support Livingstone. Anyone who cares about London and who cares about the envirnment should read it.
London currently leads world cities in tackling climate change. Boris Johnson would see this end. Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth says that "(London) has emerged as a leader in the struggle to avoid catastrophic global warming. This is in large part down to the leadership of Ken Livingstone." Stephen Haile of the Green Alliance dubs Ken a "trailblazer (who) sets the standard for leadership and action matched by no one else in British politics."
This is fine praise. Coupled with progressive transport policies that will make a real difference to London, Ken really trumps it for those who can bothered to find out.
The Evening Standard's grossly biased coverage of the election makes it easy for Labour/Ken supporters to get pessimistic. I don't believe this is necessary and it certainly won't help get Ken re-elected. Thankfully The Ipsos Mori poll published today shows Ken in the lead, if only by 2% - though this is remarkably similar to last week's ICM poll. A significant number of Londoners are progressively minded and will back Ken. The Labour movement needs to keep reminding them why. A better environment and better transport are two great reasons.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
YouGov didn't weight their results for the ethnicity of London or filter out those unlikely to vote, rendering their results unreliable. They did garner positive
Today's Guardian ICM poll puts Johnson one point ahead. Livingstone is far ahead among women, non-whites and those in inner London. The key to victory resides in getting Labour voters to actually vote. Closing the "Labour gap" between those who identify with the Party and actually vote.
Labour also badly needs the Lib Dem second preferences. My belief that most Lib Dems are inherently more right than left is borne out by the poll findings showing that Paddick supporters are more likely to give Johnson their second preferences than Ken. Having watch Paddick "perform" at the Evening Standard's Influentials debate on Monday I can understand why Lib Dems might like our Brian. He was wooden, as if being interviewed for a job. Most of his responses were taken straight from a management manual. When asked what book would guide him through mayoralty he said "I want to listen to London, not be guided by a book." Great. Thanks Brian. Unfortunately his supporters hold the key, but Ken's strategy of wooing them by bigging up his environmental credentials is exactly the right one for the sandal brigade.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Clearly the safety of bendy buses needs to be looked at properly, because nobody wants to see unnecessary harm caused, together with fare evasion on those routes. The fact remains though that Boris Johnson's much fabled new Routemaster doesn't exist. Bendy buses were introduced to high demand routes where double deckers are inaccessible and impractical because boarding takes too long.
I noted with interest a report to Swansea City Council by First Group about introducing bendy buses to the city (they are also used in Nottingham, Leeds and Manchester already, among others). Though conditions there were not thought to be comparible to London, it was noted that accidents involving the buses are "well below expectations when compared to the standard UK First Bus fleet." Worth noting. Perhaps we can learn from this in London? Or listen to it?
The most important transport issues facing London are capacity and affordability. Our network is over crowded, so we need more of it. Simple. Ken Livingstone has already got these projects agreed and underway for London, Crossrail, East London Line extension and has proposed further schemes like the Oxford Street Tram. Johnson has no new ideas of his own, which worries me. If he became Mayor , I doubt he would offer anything new or exciting, only projects he didn't devise or think of.
When offered a choice between two candidates, with the same policies, I'll be voting for the one who actually thought of them in the first place. Not the one who only has one, unworkable idea.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Despite the claims of Gilligan tonight that TfL's Peter Hendy acted politically in defending the use of these buses against Johnson's slurs, this wasn't the case. The "evidence" he presents shows Hendy defending the policy he enacted. That he names Johnson's campaign doesn't make a civil servant political, he was simply stating the case against someone who was criticising TfL policy. Civil servants are also meant to be anonymous traditionally, so Gilligan's article flouts that practice.
This is a red herring. Ken's transport policy for London is progressive, making travel affordable for those on low incomes and free for the young and old. Expanding the network by delivering Crossrail and better rail services will make London easier to get around for everyone. Contrast this with the Tory proposals. Replace bendy buses with an accessible Routemaster that doesn't exist. Scrap the £25 congestion charge for gas guzzlers. What effect will that have? The bendy buses will remain on the streets (where they are needed on crowded routes like the 38, 73 and 29), while the air will be more polluted. That is it. Progress versus regression.
The two visions laid out by the leading candidates for the Mayoralty are starkly different. One is ambitious, one is piecemeal at best. However, Ken's campaign needs to work hard to ensure this message gets through to voters. Johnson is being treated as a serious candidate because, with the help of his friends in the media and at Associated Newspapers, he is being seen as one, according to opinion polls.
This is going to be a hard fought campaign. For the first time since I was a pre-teen, the Tories are being treated seriously. However, the last time that happened, Labour had no record of delivery to speak of. Ken does and that gives him a position of strength.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Following my earlier post that Boris Johnson had no actual plan to replace bendy buses with these mystical new Routemasters, he admitted today that he really doesn't know how he plans to implement one of his best known "policies."
The choice for London is stark, ambition and progress versus stagnation and confusion.
Friday, March 14, 2008
It doesn't. So nobody knows how much it will cost to research, design, build and buy. A mayoral term lasts four years, product development and licencing would take longer than that. So even if Boris managed to get a design approved it is unlikely that he would be able to replace bendy buses with a new Routemaster duting his term of office anyway.
If this is all he has to offer then London deserves more ambition than a vague and unresearched idea. It is nothing more than that.
"A spokeswoman for Johnson said the new Routemaster bus had not been designed yet it was not possible to say how many would be needed or what the total cost would be."
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Monday, March 10, 2008
There is a lot to get excited about in London over the next four years with the Olympics and new transport developments. On my way to watch Leyton Orient I go past the Olmypic site at it's Northern peak, by the A12 in Hackney Wick. The sheer scale of the development and the positive change it will bring to London hits you. The city will change immeasurably in the next four years.
I feel that none of the ambitious projects, Olympics, Crossrail and the East London Line Extension, would have happened under the Tories or if Johnson had been Mayor. There is obviously a great deal that could go wrong.
One part of Ken's transport manifesto that didn't get much pick up today was the plan to introduce a bicycle hire scheme, a mirror of the hugely successful one in Paris. Other new projects of note include extending Croydon Tramlink to Crystal Palace and the Oxford Street transit. Wresting control of London's railways is also being discussed. This would make a massive difference to South Londoners who don't get the benefit of the tube or Oyster pay as you go.
Progress versus posturing. That choice was made very clear today.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
In the last couple of days there have been some good articles focusing on the issues vexing London at the moment. The Independent on Sunday's Gilligan interview, today's Guardian Livingstone interview, we have to remember that it is Ken versus Boris, not Ken versus Gilligan/Evening Standard.
Gilligan claims he isn't returning a favour to Boris Johnson for employing him at the Spectator after he lost his position at the BBC after the Hutton Enquiry. Dave Hill's "What if Boris wins?" reminded me that Johnson previously offered his support to the thankfully now jailed convicted fraudster Conrad Black.
More importantly for London, Boris has unveiled his transport manifesto. This includes "consulting" (read abolish) on the western part of the Congestion Charge zone and to get a no-strike deal with the tube unions. I can't see that happening and anyway, strikes have hardly been the scourge of the travelling public in London recently. There was no vision, no schemes to get excited about or to reduce carbon emissions.
Perhaps the only thing exicting about what Boris says is how he says it, not what he says. London needs more.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
However, I'm more interested in the concept that many of the accusations against Jasper stem from alleged relationships, personal or political, that he may have with those in the ethnic minority community network. I don't think I'm missing the point, but isn't that exactly what you want in that sort of position? Surely the reason Jasper was appointed was precisely because he had such connections?
Friday, February 29, 2008
Getting rid of traffic will make the street more pleasant and show that London can really take on the challenges of climate change and of creating livable spaces - like the changes in Trafalgar Square from a few years ago.
Big up Ken. What vision has our Boris offered so far? Mayoralty should be about big projects and making people proud to live in their city. Look at the work of Bertrand Delanoë in Paris in bringing the Paris Plage and Rock en Seine or the transformation of Barcelona under Pasqual Maragall i Mira to see the pride and rebirth a forward thinking mayor prepared to face criticism from conservatives can do.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Does anyone remember the Canadian who renounced his nationality to become British and become a British peer? Conrad Black was recommended to become a Lord by then Tory Leader and current Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague.
Black was convicted of fraud last summer and has somehow dodged jail. His days of freedom seem numbered now though as his latest appeal against his conviction. The Press Association reports that:
"US prosecutors said an emergency request by lawyers for the 63-year-old former owner of the Daily Telegraph that he should remain free on bail pending the outcome of an appeal should be denied."
Get him behind bars like all other convicts.
Oh, I must thank Hague for giving us this wonderful man.