Can anyone deliver my wish list for London?

Why does nobody have a remedy for keeping the drunk and disorderly off public transport at night?
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The Independent Online

Compared with voters in many parts of the country, we Londoners have it almost easy today. For us there is no fiddling around with postal ballots that might or might not have arrived, no need to check that our ballot papers list names for London rather than Stockport, no need to choose among writing implements or envelopes. All we need to do is get down to the polling station, pick up the pencil on a string and off we go.

Compared with voters in many parts of the country, we Londoners have it almost easy today. For us there is no fiddling around with postal ballots that might or might not have arrived, no need to check that our ballot papers list names for London rather than Stockport, no need to choose among writing implements or envelopes. All we need to do is get down to the polling station, pick up the pencil on a string and off we go.

And for mayor, at least, we have perhaps the simplest set of options in the land: a straightforward choice between three leading candidates, Lib, Lab and Con, who are clearly differentiated along utterly conventional party lines. After all the hair-splitting, spin-laden, jargon-ridden politics of recent years, it is almost a relief to see and hear our candidates for mayor: the demotic Ken Livingstone (aka Ken); the smoothly public-school Steve Norris (aka Nozza); and that nice middle-of-the-road bicycling Simon Hughes (aka the boy next door). For the life of me, I cannot remember any of the others, but there must be a Green.

Voting for London's mayor, though, is more complicated than it looks. Take Ken. His greatest feat by far is to have filled the office so convincingly that no one will be able to abolish it. Four years ago there was much agonising about whether we needed a mayor; that debate is in the past. And I have no idea whether it is the mayor's doing or not, but central London has started to look rather splendid, almost un-Londonlike, almost - dare one say - Continental, in its brightness and elegance. The royal parks looked a treat through the spring, and even the pubs have smartened up their act. The licensed buskers are an additional adornment, especially the one - you know who you are - with the didgeridoo.

The congestion charge that Ken pioneered against fearsome opposition is an acknowledged success, unless your route lies through Trafalgar Square or you enter the zone as the charging period expires in the evening. Unfortunately, to judge by the jams, most people want to do exactly this, in which case the C-charge should be accounted less of a success. But oh dear, Ken forfeited his maverick appeal by allowing Tony to co-opt him back into the Labour Party. I suspect London preferred a maverick to a Labour mayor.

Ken is the only candidate with a record to run on, and as records go, it is hardly lethal. But the others also have points to recommend them. Nozza thinks that crime is still too high and that there are still too few police on patrol. He is right. Where are all those extra recruits our council tax is paying for? The most I ever see is the posse on high-speed motorbikes escorting the Prime Minister's armoured Jag in and out of Downing Street.

The manifesto idea I am most taken with, though, comes from the boy next door. He proposes closing Oxford Street to all traffic and running a tram down the middle. I couldn't agree more. At weekends the streets are so crowded that in other circumstances they would be closed as dangerous. The road space is end-to-end buses (thank you, Ken; but you can actually have too many buses if they don't move). So let's have a tram, and let's pedestrianise Bond Street and Regent Street while we are at it.

Perhaps I have not read their manifestos with sufficient attention. It is selfish, I know, but my problem in choosing where to place my X today is that no one candidate, not Ken, not Nozza, nor even the boy next door, comes close to fulfilling my personal wish-list for improving London. The other night, I was walking through streets of houses and small shops and realised that my whole route was being illuminated as I walked - not by the street lighting, which was new, mock-Regency and Stygian, but by automatic security cameras illuminating themselves one after the other. Compared with most Continental streets, London's are gloomy. If the lighting were better, many of the - highly intrusive - security cameras might not be needed.

Security apparently dictates that there should be no rubbish receptacles in much of Westminster or in any of the Tube stations. Our millions of visitors go to ingenious lengths to stow their litter and empties neatly. Without bins, however, there are litter and hygiene problems that even expensive hour-by-hour sweeping cannot disguise. Is there no way that litter disposal can be made compatible with tight security?

Crime is one thing, and the candidates promise that their policies will produce less of it. Yobbishness, though, is something we just recognise when we see it. Why is it that no one apparently has a remedy for keeping the drunk and disorderly (or paralytic) off public transport at night? Why is no one offering to impose penalties for spitting in public (unhygienic, uncivilised and apparently in fashion)? And now that busking is licensed, why not begging, too? Main railway stations are an obstacle course and the Parisian practice of begging on the Metro has transferred to London.

Ken, Nozza, Simon, and all you aspiring mayors out there - won't any of you deal with it? There's at least one vote in it for you.

m.dejevsky@independent.co.uk

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