Ken Livingstone: Why you should vote tactically to keep out the Tories

'Many Labour supporters would rather vote for their own party, but Labour cannot win in some seats'
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The Independent Online
p>This election poses a straight choice for London. There are two governments on offer on 7 June. Only one of those ­ a Labour government ­ offers any possibility of extending the exercise of devolution to London voters. Only a Labour government can provide the basis for improved public services. Only the election of a Labour government would permit the conditions for the future prosperity of the capital. A Hague government would be an unmitigated disaster for London.

I will be devoting my energies in this election to stopping a Tory revival in Greater London. A Conservative government would oppose the progress that my administration is making on public transport, and would set itself against the new political culture that is emerging to celebrate London's diversity.

London faces massive infrastructural problems. Economic growth and a rising population have combined with the absence for 15 years of strategic citywide government. As a result there are too few police, the Tube is bursting at the seams, roads are gridlocked and there is a housing crisis. Faced with the scale of these problems, the Tory manifesto for London published last week would actually reduce my limited powers to address these issues.

On policing the Tories say they want to increase police numbers. But the Tories on the Greater London Assembly voted against increased resources in my budget for an extra 1,050 police officers. The Conservative manifesto proposes to do nothing to cut congestion ­ they actually want to remove the city's bus lanes. Their ludicrous plan is the opposite of what is required.

On the question of Europe, the implementation of their hardline anti-euro stance in the London manifesto would be a disaster. By ruling out entry to the eurozone the Tories would jeopardise London's position as the financial centre of Europe.

However, my view is not simply that the Tories are worse and voters should therefore opt for Labour. It is clear that the Labour Government, despite all my political conflicts with it, offers the best conditions for the functioning of devolution in the capital.

Since my election I have had an excellent working relationship with Labour ministers. Working together with Keith Hill, the minister for London, my office has agreed a package of transport expenditure for London, which will ensure a programme of £3.2bn for improvements to public transport.

One issue has divided my administration from the Government ­ public-private partnership for the Underground. The joint announcement between the Government and Bob Kiley, the Commissioner of Transport for London, that Bob will now negotiate the contracts for the Underground provides an opportunity to win the unified management control that is a prerequisite for a safe Tube network. The issue is by no means resolved, but it is a basis on which to move forward.

Whilst arguing strongly for a Labour vote, I will also be putting the case for what London needs after the election. London puts far more into the national accounts than it gets back and public expenditure is lower here per head than in Scotland. I will continue my campaign to rectify this disparity.

The re-election of a Labour government is best for London, and I will be voting Labour in Brent East. I will be out campaigning for Labour candidates across London, starting on Friday morning in Hendon, where Andrew Dismore is defending a Labour marginal seat, and in Harrow East. In addition to these key seats, I will also be canvassing for my mayoral cabinet member Diane Abbott in Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

It would be a gross distortion of the political and social composition of London for the Tories to make gains here while William Hague's Tory party has moved so far to the right. For that reason I hope that in Kingston and Surbiton, where the Liberal Democrat Ed Davey is defending a majority of 56 against a particularly right-wing Tory, Labour supporters will vote to keep the Tory out. In seats which are straight fights between Liberal Democrats and Tories, I urge Labour supporters to vote tactically.

Many Labour supporters would rather vote for their own party, but Labour cannot win in these seats. I would say to them that where such a choice exists, it is better that there is an intelligent debate in Parliament between a Labour government and the Liberal Democrats, who will argue for increased public spending and the retention of the Tube within the public sector funded by bonds.

The alternative is to let in Tories who will seek to use their increased numbers to set the terms of the debate firmly against asylum-seekers, against Europe and against public services. This political terrain runs against the interests of the electorate in London.

Fundamentally, the choice for London is clear ­ in the argument between two potential governments, London should choose Labour.

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