Let Ken be Ken and cut fares more

4th December, 2011 5:12 pm

It’s time for Ken Livingstone to really go for the jugular over Boris Johnson’s Tory fares rises. We should let Ken be Ken – and Ken should unleash a more radical fares policy. Here’s why.

In the last few weeks we have seen the signs that Ken is starting to shift the narrative of the election onto his terms.

That’s both because of Ken’s fares policy but also the work of Labour activists to drive that story into the public consciousness. Labour mobilised at over one hundred tube and train stations on the morning of the launch of the Fare Deal campaign last month. Five hundred people turned up to his Fare Deal rally in Camden. Thousands have signed up to support the Fare Deal online and by text.

The effect of the fares policy is that people are starting to view the mayoral election on the basis of a real political choice. The Evening Standard judged that “On this issue at least, Ken has his finger on the capital’s pulse.”

Total Politics reported one Conservative source saying Ken’s Fare Deal election ad is “the best ad Labour have done in ages by far”. Henry G Manson on Political Betting concluded that with the Fare Deal “Ken Livingstone has well and truly got himself back in contention”.

Inserting fares into the campaign has made it worthy of the pollsters’ attention. The ComRes poll of last week shows that when people hear what Ken says on fares, they agree. Polled on Ken’s plan for a 5% fares cut versus Boris Johnson’s argument that a cut would not be possible without halting transport improvements Comres found 38% of Londoners more likely to vote for Ken, including 13% of Boris Johnson’s own supporters. That underlines that if Labour succeeds in getting its message over, people are very likely to move in Ken’s direction.

So strongly do Londoners want their fares held down that they are prepared to forego transport upgrades to obtain lower fares. Asked their view on the statement ‘in the current economic climate, tube fares should be kept as low as possible even if this means stopping upgrade works,’ six out of ten Londoners agree. That is not what Labour proposes – transport upgrades are required. But it is an indication of how serious this issue is for people.

Tory jitters are palpable. Hence George Osborne’s move in the autumn statement to bung £130m to Boris Johnson to help lessen the scale of his January fares rise. That still means a big fares rise when people are being squeezed. It backfired – instead of announcing one fares rise this year, Boris Johnson has now twice announced fares are going up. The second merely reinforces the message of the first – Boris Johnson is the high fares candidate in this race.

Nor has Johnson succeeded in blunting Labour’s message in outer London. A weekly zone 1-6 Travelcard is up 6% this January to £53.40, making customers £457.60 a year worse off since Boris Johnson was elected.

In the process of all this Osborne and Johnson have tied themselves together over fares. Johnson’s right wing campaign chief Lynton Crosby must be dismayed.

But there is space for Ken to go further on fares. The figures Labour has published from Boris Johnson’s own transport budgets show that in the first six months of this year the operating surpluses reached £206million. This is the pattern of Johnson’s fare rises – excess revenues being hoovered out of Londoners’ pockets and purses annually.

Ken’s policy of a 5% cut for the autumn of 2012, a freeze in 2013 and no more above-inflation packages after that is very prudently calculated, based on conservative assumptions about ridership levels and average surpluses. Taking into account what is happening to the operating surplus, and factoring in that passenger numbers are continuing to rise, then there is a strong basis for Ken going further.

For a start bus users are being ripped off by this mayor, bearing the brunt of four years of attacks on their quality of life even as their mayor rolls around in his cash from his £250,000 a year Telegraph salary. Ken should give bus users the clearest possible signal that they are going to be given a much fairer deal.

On BBC London last Friday Ken Livingstone’s answer to the Boris Johnson fares rise was very interesting. He said it should be zero. That is a big signal that he may want to go further than 5%.

Johnson has nowhere to run to now. Ken must seize the opening.

Tom Copley is a Labour candidate for the London Assembly list

Latest

  • Comment Would calling for a ban on private school be electoral suicide?

    Would calling for a ban on private school be electoral suicide?

    If I’d had a vote in the last election I wouldn’t have voted Labour. I thought its flagship policies were too boring. Any government will invest money, regulate business and adjust taxes to nudge Britain in the direction it wants. Freezing energy bills may have been a good course of action, but what will win my vote are the policies that make a lasting impact. For me, Labour’s choice of leader is insignificant if the party’s biggest promises aren’t reformist […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Labour needs its centre-left more than ever

    Labour needs its centre-left more than ever

    I’ve decided who I am voting for, but for a lot of this campaign I’ve wanted to abstain, or go on holiday. It has been a pretty difficult time to be on the centre-left of the Labour Party . The quality has been low, and nobody fully reflects people on what we might call ‘the soft left’. Lots of people I respect, generally from the left of the party in some shape or form, have been hugely inspired during the Corbyn […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Sajid Javid could be the sign the electorate is looking for that the Tory party has shed its ‘nasty party’ reputation

    Sajid Javid could be the sign the electorate is looking for that the Tory party has shed its ‘nasty party’ reputation

    This article is from the new Progress pamphlet ‘Face-off’, examining the potential successors to David Cameron as Conservative leader. You can read the full pamphlet here. Few leaders inspire true fear in their opponents. Those that do, do so because they force people to think again about the party they represent. Britain’s most electorally successful politicians, Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher, were able to reach such heights because they confounded the electorate’s expectations: Blair believed that wealth creation was not […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Tony Blair hits out at Corbyn’s “politics of parallel reality”

    Tony Blair hits out at Corbyn’s “politics of parallel reality”

    Tony Blair has made a new intervention in the Labour leadership contest with an article in today’s Observer, which the paper has splashed with on the front page: The former Labour Prime Minister confesses that he doesn’t “get” frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity, but claims that he is “trying hard” to understand it, and compares it to similar waves of support for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the US presidential race. Blair also says he appreciates that his advice against […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Unions Anti-trade union legislation could face legal challenge for contravening human rights

    Anti-trade union legislation could face legal challenge for contravening human rights

    Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper is ready to raise the prospect of challenging the Tories’ proposed anti-trade union laws in the courts, claiming it might contravene human rights legislation. Cooper says she has received legal advice that points to potential breaches of Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which preserves the right of freedom of association, including trade unions. The leadership contender will accuse the Conservatives of trying to use their position to cripple the opposition with […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit