Leading article: Why London needs Glenda

Share
Related Topics
THE SPECTACULAR departure of Lord Archer yesterday from the race for the London mayoralty has transformed the contest into one that it is suddenly possible to imagine the Tories winning. Despite Lord Archer's undoubted appeal to the best-seller-reading, apolitical middle-class electorate, he was always a damaged candidate. In the end, utterly unexpectedly, it was the extraordinary events leading to his successful libel action against the Daily Star that came back to haunt him. But even if it had not been, after his self-confessed error involving the purchase of Anglia shares, and with London's only evening newspaper relentlessly opposed to him, his campaign was always going to be an uphill struggle.

Steven Norris is an altogether more disturbing prospect for Labour, as the Government has been quick to realise. For all his colourful - and never concealed - past private life, Mr Norris has style, a true feeling for London and experience as an efficient and confident minister running, among other things, the capital's transport. He has not yet been confirmed as a candidate, but it would be ludicrous for the Tories not to substitute him in the next 48 hours.

Which suddenly makes the Labour selection matter in a way that it did not through all the comi-tragic twists and turns of last week. If ever there was a time to rethink the certainties of a straight fight between Ken Livingstone and Frank Dobson, both of whom have been in their own ways damaged by those unhappy events, it is now. Time, in fact, to re- examine the merits of Glenda Jackson. Double Oscar-winning British actress (1970 and 1973). Serious politician in her own right. Clever but with the common touch, former minister to boot (and not sacked - she resigned to fight for London, and against male-dominated Millbank's wishes). A woman and, no, it is not a pity she once (or twice) undressed on screen. A feminist without being boring about it, with decent views on all the things that matter, and probably the only candidate that foreigners have ever heard of. She is very good indeed at what she did and does. Her head- girl common-sense approach even has Middle England appeal, which is more than can be said for the other two. Could Britain's capital be in better hands or have a better face - like the city itself, lived in but alive?

Ms Jackson is someone Londoners could identify with and be proud of. She has not had the media attention of the other two, but performs well in opinion polls (well ahead of Mr Dobson, on one reckoning). She has shrugged off the insult that 10 Downing Street did not think she was strong enough to stop Red Ken: hence its support for the former Health secretary. She sailed through last week's shortlist fiasco without throwing theatrical tantrums but said sensible things at the right moment. If her public persona is a little lacking in irony, it is one of her more appealing attributes that she has none of the gushing, image-conscious style of her former profession: she even admitted yesterday to being "singularly charmless". She does not manipulate or act a part, because she is confident about who she is. New Labour but not a Blair Babe; a politician, not a retired actress. Ms Jackson is her own person.

As London Labour's primary before the London presidential race approaches, there is one vital sincerity test she passes and the other two fail. Are they the same close up as at a distance? For public consumption Mr Dobson has little charisma, no studio presence, and thinks his best card is to play the bluff buffoon. Those who have worked with him privately, such as executives and top doctors in the health service, describe a different man with a clear grasp of policy and considerable administrative talent. The difference is striking and rather disturbing. Which Mr Dobson are Londoners supposed to be voting for, and why?

With Comrade Livingstone it is the opposite. He dominates the media with chirpy charm, but many of those who have worked closely with him in the past say he was a loner, a ruthless opportunist and self-publicist who, for all his posturing, is lacking in principle. One has to wonder about the integrity of a darling of the left who has agreed to campaign on a New Labour platform, which the London Labour manifesto is bound to be, save for his carefully contrived quarrel over financing the Underground (an issue that he consistently misrepresents).

The coming battle between the Livingstone and Dobson camps is a ridiculous sideshow: what a waste, what a tragedy for London that one of the most important decisions over its own future for generations has degenerated into this silly circus. London deserves a proper mayor, and Ms Jackson's name it has to be, in lights. London is lucky to have her.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A press image from the company  

If men are so obsessed by their genitals, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities of sex?

Chloë Hamilton
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara  

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory