We can, and must, do better than this to beat Boris

August 14, 2010 6:32 pm

Ken and OonaBy Mark Ferguson / @markfergusonuk

It must be exasperating to be a Labour mayoral candidate right now.

Everyone is cheering for their chosen candidate. But they are also ignoring the fact that, in the form of London Mayor, Labour is fighting for the second largest individual mandate in Europe (after the French Presidency).

If held at another time, perhaps the selection race would have been more notable. Maybe Labour could have expressed an innovative take on transport policy, to challenge the bizarre publicity surrounding the Boris bike, or even a groundbreaking scheme to tackle inner-London’s gang culture and associated gun and knife crime.

As it happens, the stand out moments have been a little more predictable and unedifying. What is there here to draw new people into politics? We are better than this. These candidates are better than this. Labour in London is so, so much better than this.

It’s especially disappointing to see spats when, by and large, they don’t reflect the wider mood on the party. There is little desire for division in the party, as evidenced by the relatively civil nature of the leadership contest. Our party is broadly united and focused on the task in hand – opposing the debilitating Tory cuts and ensuring that we get back into power sooner rather than later.

Maybe both candidates are plagued by the past. Ken does not seem to have moved on enough from his last unsuccessful tussle with Boris Johnson, whilst Oona King’s record as someone who lost a safe inner London seat to a minor party has largely been glossed over. This campaign should be about bigger and better things, a practice run for taking back Number 10 in 2015. Neither candidate should play the old favourites and hope that the audience likes it better this time.

Boris Johnson has established his election tactics already – mainly his bikes – nearly two years before he’ll need to deploy them. Ken and Oona shouldn’t play each other down. Neither campaign has been bold (or foolish) enough to make criticisms in stark terms, but some have certainly been inferred.

Instead, we need more developed attacks, such as those that the Tories will launch on whoever our candidate when the time comes. Both candidates are capable. The Labour Party is strong. We should make more of all our strengths.

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