Leading article: The contest is local, the significance national

Share
Related Topics

Most mayoral elections tend to be parochial affairs, focusing on issues of only marginal relevance to the rest of the country. But Thursday's vote to decide the outcome of the London mayoral contest will be a political event of truly national importance.

Indeed, the capital has become something of a proxy battleground for the main political parties in recent weeks. Boris Johnson has been thrust forward as a representative of David Cameron's modernising Conservative Party; with its new emphasis on inclusiveness. Meanwhile, despite his historic differences with the Labour leadership, the incumbent, Ken Livingstone, has attracted the personal support of Gordon Brown on the stump. If Mr Livingstone's campaign had to be boiled down into a single message it would be "vote for competence and experience rather than charm and flashiness". The parallels with the Prime Minister's own situation are clear.

If Mr Johnson is victorious, it will be a significant boost for the Conservative Party; it will be interpreted as a sign that the national mood is turning back in its favour. Labour will likewise feel some welcome wind in the party sails if Ken Livingstone is returned for a third term of office in City Hall.

So much for the politics; but who deserves to prevail? Mr Livingstone has a lot to be proud of from his eight years in power. His record on transport, the policy area over which the Mayor's office has most power, has been significant. He has increased the number of buses, encouraged Londoners on to their bikes in huge numbers and reversed the trend of rising car congestion. In terms of community relations, he has been a success too. Mr Livingstone has celebrated London's cultural and ethnic diversity, rather than fretting about it, as too many politicians on the national stage are prone to. He has also been far bolder on the environment than national government. It took genuine political courage for Mr Livingstone to introduce the Congestion Charge.

But the present Mayor has just as much that he ought to be ashamed of, namely his profligacy with public funds and his naked cronyism. On a personal level, Mr Livingstone has displayed arrogance and an unattractive sense of entitlement during this campaign. He has also, at times, looked physically tired.

Yet it is not enough for one candidate to look past his sell-by-date. Another must inspire. The Conservative mayoral campaign has been tightly-run and professional; its tactics have been largely based on reining in its candidate's more flamboyant instincts. But for all that, it is hard to see even the new, more serious, Mr Johnson as Mayor of a world city such as London. The Conservative candidate has never shown any real interest in the capital in the past. Nor does he have any experience of public administration. And the innate cautiousness of his campaign means that, in policy terms, he has outlined nothing much to excite Londoners.

The representative of the third party, Brian Paddick, has been disappointing too. He has overplayed his experience as a Metropolitan police commissioner, focusing on crime to the exclusion of other important issues. Thankfully, Sian Berry, the Green Party candidate, has been much more engaging. Though she has inevitably struggled to attract as much publicity as the other three candidates, she has still managed to articulate a serious environmental agenda.

Yet, aside from odd flashes of brilliance, or belligerence, there has been nothing really to bring this campaign to life. For all its wider political significance, this has not been the inspiring democratic contest that a city like London deserves.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee