Threat of London defeat prompts Miliband to attack 'typical Tory'
Labour leader hits out at Johnson amid fears that national gains could be overshadowed by Livingstone losing
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Wednesday 02 May 2012
Ed Miliband has accused Boris Johnson of trying to fool Londoners into thinking he is not a Conservative by distancing himself from David Cameron.
In a last-minute intervention ahead of tomorrow's mayoral election in London, Mr Miliband launched an outspoken attack on Mr Johnson. He told The Independent: "Boris Johnson's strategy for these mayoral elections is based on pretending he is not a Tory. He tries not to be seen in public with David Cameron and most of his election literature makes no reference to him being the Conservative candidate. But Boris Johnson has proven to be a typical Tory as mayor, raising fares, cutting services and standing up only for the powerful or wealthy in London."
Mr Miliband's move reflects Labour's private fears that the party's expected gains across Britain in tomorrow's local elections could be overshadowed by Mr Johnson seeing off the challenge from Labour's former Mayor Ken Livingstone. Senior Labour figures insist the big test for the party will not be a personality contest in London but whether Labour gains ground in councils covering the key marginal seats that will decide the 2015 general election.
Mr Johnson's allies argue that he is a liberal Conservative in tune with London's multicultural make-up who has embraced liberal values such as gay rights. But as the mayoral race enters its last lap, Labour is portraying him as a man who hoodwinks voters by hiding his right-wing Tory instincts.
Mr Miliband added: "He [Mr Johnson] led the campaign for a tax cut for millionaires in the Budget. He even wanted to go further than George Osborne by reducing the rate for those earning £150,000 a year not just to 45p, but to 40p.
"People must not be misled. They should not let Boris Johnson get away with it. They have a choice between a Tory mayor with a track record of standing up for the privileged few or a Labour mayor in Ken Livingstone with a proven track record of making lives better for working people in London."
Yesterday Mr Johnson put the economy at the top of his list of priorities for a second four-year term as mayor.
His nine-point plan included cutting the Mayor's share of council tax by at least 10 per cent; cutting £3.5bn of waste at City Hall; creating 200,000 jobs; reducing Tube delays by 30 per cent; putting 1,000 more police on the beat; and investing £221m to transform local high streets.
"This election comes when we have been going through the toughest times that anyone can remember," Mr Johnson said. "The big question is therefore blindingly simple. It is about who has the best plan for the jobs and growth that will help bring prosperity to all. It is about who will deliver the investment – from central government – that will take London forward. It is about who you can trust to spend that money wisely – and who will be honest with you about where the money is coming from, and how it is spent."
In his final campaign pitch today, Mr Livingstone will appeal to Londoners' pockets, saying people can save £1,000 by backing him because of his pledge to cut fares by 7 per cent in October.
He will say: "The only guarantee you get with Tory Boris Johnson would be another four years of above-inflation fare increases. Why else would the Tory Mayor refuse to reveal any details of his fares policy if he wasn't planning a huge fare hike?"
Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrat candidate, promised yesterday that he would make London a more equal city. He said: "Inequality has been a way of life for too long in London. Some of the most deprived places in the United Kingdom are just a stone's throw from the biggest financial centre in Europe. I don't believe in placing a limit on people's ambitions but I do believe in a floor beneath which people cannot be allowed to drop."
He pledged to help London's poorest workers, with targeted fare cuts to help people who travel early in the morning, work part-time or use buses instead of trains. Mr Paddick also pledged a huge social housebuilding programme to give every Londoner a decent and genuinely affordable place to live, and to end discrimination.
Local elections: Five key questions
1. Will the London Mayor Boris Johnson defy the Conservatives' falling opinion poll ratings by defeating Labour's Ken Livingstone?
2. Will Labour fight back in the south of England, to show it is on course for a general election victory?
3. Will the Liberal Democrats suffer a repeat of their heavy losses last year, or will they be able to claim they have halted the slide?
4. Will the rise and rise of Alex Salmond's Scottish National Party continue by ending Labour's 35-year reign in control of Glasgow City Council?
5. Will the UK Independence Party make significant inroads into the Conservative vote?
National picture: The battlegrounds
Glasgow Scottish National Party hoping to boot Labour out of power in Scottish heartland for the first time since 1977.
Birmingham Labour hoping to oust ruling Conservative-Lib Dem coalition in biggest local authority in forerunner of battle at next general election.
Bradford Labour hopes of overall control could be threatened by George Galloway's Respect Party.
Plymouth Two-way battle could see Conservatives lose control to Labour.
Cardiff Lib Dems in danger of losing their grip as a minority administration.
Stockport Lib Dem town hall stronghold is now a minority administration and could be at risk.
Southampton Labour hoping to make progress in Conservative-run area to show it can win seats in the south.
Portsmouth Lib Dems are in control but a net gain of four seats would put the Conservatives in the driving seat.
Carlisle Labour should comfortably gain overall majority.
Reading Labour hoping to turn minority administration into overall majority.
Thurrock Close two-way battle between Conservatives and Labour, which currently has two-seat advantage.
Cambridge Lib Dems hope to hang on to power in what will be a key marginal seat at 2015 general election.
Swansea Labour hoping to challenge Lib Dem control.
Harlow Key parliamentary battleground which Labour will look to wrest from Conservatives, who have tiny majority.
Exeter Three-way contest in hung council where Labour is hoping to emerge on top.
Derby Labour is largest party in three-way fight; winning overall majority would be cause for celebration.
Aberdeenshire Scottish National Party looking to become largest party in area now run by Conservative-Lib Dem administration.
South Ayrshire Scottish National Party hoping to challenge Conservative-run minority administration.
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