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


  • Comment Europe Featured Labour Leave has no confidence in David Cameron’s EU renegotiation

    Labour Leave has no confidence in David Cameron’s EU renegotiation

    The Labour campaign to leave the European Union has been launched. ‘Labour Leave’ is a Labour campaign, run by, staffed by and funded by Labour members. We would like to invite all Labour members, trade unionists, supporters, socialist societies and affiliates to join our campaign to secure a ‘leave’ vote in the coming referendum on our EU membership. The Labour Party does not have a single view on our membership of the EU and the Labour Party isn’t united behind […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Austerity is damaging women’s mental health. Labour must act to improve it

    Austerity is damaging women’s mental health. Labour must act to improve it

    Women experience mental health differently to men. They suffer higher rates of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And the factors that cause these are likely to get worse because of the government’s austerity agenda. So if Labour is to continue being the party that works for women, we must focus on mental health provision, or risk losing ground in our fight for gender equality. The Mental Health Foundation highlights how women are twice as likely to experience anxiety. […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Jeremy Corbyn: “Tory conference was a feast of spin and deception”

    Jeremy Corbyn: “Tory conference was a feast of spin and deception”

    The Conservative Conference in Manchester proved that the party were still “the same old Tories”, according to Jeremy Corbyn. During a speech in Glasgow tonight, where he will also set out his support for “decent” businesses who support their employees, Corbyn will call out the Tories’ “fake claims to support equality” and say that ministers’ speeches “let the mask slip” to reveal the party’s true colours. He will also say that David Cameron’s “crude personal attacks” on Corbyn show that […]

    Read more →
  • News Sadiq edges ahead in close early London Mayor poll

    Sadiq edges ahead in close early London Mayor poll

    Sadiq Khan is ahead of Zac Goldsmith by 51% to 49% in the first YouGov poll for the Evening Standard since both were confirmed as their party’s candidates. It is also the first time that Khan has been ahead of Goldsmith in a head-to-head polled by YouGov (other pollsters have shown him with leads previously). A Khan/Goldsmith run-off in June revealed a tie, while Goldsmith edged it in July and August polling – suggesting that early momentum may have shifted […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Corbyn to set out pro-“decent business” agenda in Glasgow speech

    Corbyn to set out pro-“decent business” agenda in Glasgow speech

    Jeremy Corbyn will tonight praise ethical and responsible businesses, in a speech at a Scottish Labour fundraiser in Glasgow. He will praise employers who “respect their workers” and “don’t lock out trade unions”. It is one of the first signs of what a Labour pro-business agenda under Corbyn might looks like, as he outlines the kind of business practice he thinks the party “should celebrate”. He will also criticise the fallout from 2008’s financial crisis, which he says was caused […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends