Council Leader Julian Bell reviews the London Mayoral contenders:
In the last month I have shared a platform with both Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson during visits to the Borough. With the Mayoral election due in May 2012 the two campaigns are beginning to lay out their positions and the contrast could not be starker.
Tory Mayor Boris Johnson looks increasingly out of touch with ordinary people and seems oblivious to the challenges they face. The daily misery of tube travellers is a case in point. Over the last two days I and other tube travellers have experienced massive delays on the Central Line and Jubilee Lines through suspensions and signal failures.
This chaos is now the daily experience for tube travellers and Boris is doing nothing about it other than hiking up the fares every year.
Boris came to Greenford Hall in early February ostensibly for a discussion with local people about Transport issues but it was in reality a re-elect Boris road-show at tax payers’ expense. I was the only Labour representative permitted on the panel to give the event a veneer of impartiality but Boris was allowed to dominate the event by the chair, his Deputy Richard Barnes, and gave a comic “stand up” performance so devoid of serious policy answers to residents’ concerns it could only be described as vacuous and insulting.
Residents and I raised a whole list of transport failures in the Borough and got few answers from the Mayor. Traffic congestion in Greenford Broadway is worse now as a result of the “Good for Greenford” project and the main traffic lights in the town centre have been causing havoc as TFL’s engineers have fiddled with them for over a year without success. Why had the Mayor spent significant amounts of money on starting to put in an escalator at Greenford station and then pulled the project? What was the Mayor going to do about the congestion he will have caused by giving the go ahead to the massive Southall Gas Works development? West London Citizens wanted to know what the Mayor was going to do about the dangerous junction in Hanwell that needs a pedestrian crossing phase. Why is Ealing Broadway station still without step free access after decades of calls from local residents? The list went on and on and all we got from Boris was a series of wise cracks and no substance or answers. Get a grip Boris.
Ken in contrast was brimming with policy solutions for the Borough and London’s problems, exuding the vast experience that he carries as a twice former Mayor and life-long Londoner. He was serious and had substance. Having been brought up on a Council estate and being a habitual traveller on public transport Ken understands what ordinary people face in their daily struggles to make ends meet. He has pledged to bring bus and tube fares down and bring an end to the chaos on the tube.
He has committed himself to fighting the cuts that the Tory Mayor and the Tory led government have forced on local people and Ealing Council. He will work with the Labour Council in Ealing to tackle all those transport and other big issues that residents raised in vain with the current Mayor.
He will tackle the problems of crime by opposing the cuts to Police numbers across the capital and in Ealing by the Tory Mayor and government and he will protect the Safer Neighbourhood Police Teams that he brought in as Mayor. He will do everything in his power to protect jobs and services during this economic crisis that the Tories reckless gamble to cut too far and too soon is making worse and he will maintain London as the world city and economic power house that it is.
Serious times require serious solutions that protect Londoners: to protect public services in London, create new jobs, make the streets safer, hold down fares, and build more affordable housing. To maintain London as one of the great cities of the world. That is what Ken Livingstone will do. The choice in 2012 is clear.
11th February 2011