Ed Miliband today accused Boris Johnson of having ‘plundered’ the pockets of Londoners through his fare rises and said that the London Mayoral election is a referendum on the high fares policy of the Tory candidate, Boris Johnson.
He said there was an ‘unbridgeable difference’ between the Labour and Tory candidates over fares and warned Londoners to ‘mind the gap’ in their pockets and purses after years of rising transport costs in tough times.
The Labour leader’s intervention will mean that Boris Johnson’s record of sharp fares increases during a period of economic difficulty is at the heart of the debate up to May 3rd.
Ed Miliband told London voters this evening: “Make no mistake about it, the London Mayoral Election is a referendum on Boris Johnson’s fares policy. The core of this election is an unbridgeable difference over fares.”
In strong words aimed at the Tory Mayor, the Labour leader accused Boris Johnson of plundering cash from Londoners. “Boris Johnson has plundered the pockets of Londoners, raising fares, above inflation, year after year after year to record levels, when times are already tough enough,” he said.
“Londoners no longer just have to mind the gap when they board a tube train – the gap is now in their pockets and purses.”
And he said that the Tory campaign had taken a negative turn because the Conservatives are ‘petrified.’
Under Boris Johnson, fares have risen above inflation every year. The effect of that can be seen in the bruising increase in the price of a single bus journey, now up exactly 50% under the Conservative incumbent.
Labour’s case is that at the core of the election is the need for a mayor who is on the side of Londoners – and that Ken Livingstone gets that in a way Boris Johnson simply doesn’t. His ‘Fare Deal’ plan to cut the fares later this year, freeze them during 2013 and then ensure no further above-inflation rises has already changed the terms of the election.
The Tories have nothing to offer, which is why their campaign has gone negative. As Ed Miliband said today, “the Tories feel it necessary to resort to pure negatives and smears.” Number 10 issaid to find the Boris Johnson campaign ‘underwhelming’ and lacking a ‘simple retail offer.’ Number 10 is right. The latest scatter-gun ‘nine-point plan’ from Boris Johnson lacks a clear forward vision and fails to address the pressure Londoners are under at a time of economic uncertainty and the pressure on their living standards.
For that reason the Tory campaign is forced by the straitjacket of its own shortcomings onto on an increasingly negative and hysterical tone.
Boris Johnson’s negative advertising campaign this week throws these weaknesses into sharp-relief. The dominant tone is personality-driven attack. The damage this can do to Boris Johnson’s brand will worry the more sophisticated of Boris Johnson’s backers.
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Simon Fletcher is the Chief of Staff for the Ken Livingstone campaign