Henry G Manson on Livingstone’s prospects in London
This week Ken Livingstone launched the first major policy broadside in the London mayoral election. Labourâ€™s mayoral candidateâ€™s proposal is to allocate a portion Transport for Londonâ€™s substantial reserves to reduce the fares by 5% in autumn 2012 is something of a masterstroke.
To back it up, Labour has produced one of its best campaign videos I can recall. It spells out the full extent of the savings over a 4 year period in straight forward fashion and namechecking parts of London along the way.
Throughout his political career Ken has made transport a signature issue. The ‘Fairer Fares’ initiative could resonate even more now with the dramatic rising cost of living. The GLAâ€™s survey shows a big rise in the number of Londoners wanting cheaper bus and tube fares to be prioritised. It was 36% in 2009 and is up to 48% now. In the same time car use has gone down 5% and bus use has increased the same figure meaning that this policy would potentially appeal to even more Londoners.
The strength of this policy is that it can appeal â€˜squeezed middleâ€™ commuters from outer London with long travel patterns as well to the poorest in traditional Labour areas with the least disposable income. In a city-wide mayoral election the votes of both count equally.
Ken is always at his best when focusing on domestic issues and itâ€™s now up to Boris Johnson to respond. Like Boris, Labourâ€™s candidate has his flaws.
Unlike Boris, Ken adores the detail of policy as well as the quips. If Ken can make transport a big part of the election then Iâ€™d back him to win.
Just think about it. Come April and May when Labour canvassers are on the knocker and come across an undecided or swing voter, the prospect Â£800 saving off public transport bill is going to be one hell of an attractive incentive. Can Boris beat it? Just what are his policies that could trump Kenâ€™s Fairer Fares? Will Boris need any policies?
We’re six months away but my feeling is that having been written off by many pundits, Ken Livingstone has well and truly got himself back in contention this week. Things could get interesting.
HenryG Manson @henrygmanson