A referendum on Boris Johnson’s high fares policy

March 6, 2012 6:05 pm

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.

Ed Miliband has fired the starting pistol on a race to change London for the better. Be part of it here. SIGN UP TO THE RALLY

Simon Fletcher is the Chief of Staff for the Ken Livingstone campaign

  • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

    How long before a “petrified” orchestration of Tory contributors turn up here and provide all the evidence we need of their petrification?

    • ovaljason

      You know that is actually funny for a man who earlier this very day said:

      “On the doorstep…there’s nothing that can be said to recommend Labour.”

      How does that phrase go again? “With friends like these……”

      • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

        Why bother posting here every five minutes if you think there’s nothing to worry about?

        • ovaljason

          You’ve clearly not read my voting behaviour below.

  • ovaljason

    Simon

    Sooner or later, Ken is going to have to “do a Hazel” (Blears).

    You need to get him in front of a TV camera with a cheque made out to HMRC.

    If not, this is going to dog your campaign until election day.

    • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

      You won’t win with negative campaigning. Boris is going to have to put something positive on the table.

      • ovaljason

        A complete mis-reading of the situation.

        So far I have only ever voted Labour. Proudly for Kate Hoey in London and before that it was Alan Simpson in Nottingham where I grew up.

        I’ve also voted for Ken previously in the mayoral election.

        But I never cast my vote blindly like some unthinking tribalist.

        Here’s what’s on my mind with the mayoral election:

        I, like many in the London gay community, have had to swallow hard to forgive Ken’s associations with Yusuf al-Qaradawi (who has repeatedly said people like me should be executed by the State).

        But now we have a new issue on the table.  What looks like pretty concrete tax avoidance allegations of the worst kind.

        As I said, I cast my vote carefully.  If more and more crap keeps emerging I’m not going to vote for a candidate just because they’re wearing the right coloured shirt.

  • JC

    So who should pay for the public transport in London? The users, the end beneficiaries (companies through business rates) or all who pay council tax in London? It’s all rather negative unless we answer this question.

  • GuyM

    Two alternatives, pay for transport via direct charges i.e. fares, or pay for transport via subsidy i.e. taxation.

    What I find interesting is that the Labour leader refers to the direct charge option as “plundering the pockets of Londoners”. That language comes very close to an image of theft, especially with the “pockets and purses” quote.

    I wonder what his reaction (and that of left wing posters on LL) would be to extend that thinking to the other option of funding through taxation.

    So is taxation equally akin to “plundering the pockets of Londoners” and Ken’s and Labour record and plans on taxes mean we all have to watch our “pockets and purses”?

    Taxation seen as theft? Yep I like that argument, how about you?

  • LordElpus

    “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.”

    During Boris Johnsons tenure the price of diesel has risen 20%.

    Why only comment on the price increase of a “single bus journey”? Why not comment on the price increase of all ticket options?

    Why be so selective in your arguments?

    Oh yes, you’re the Chief of Staff for the other side’s campaign!

  • AnotherOldBoy

    Obviously Mr Ed Miliband has not been properly briefed.  Mr Livingstone’s fares’ pledge has been exposed as bogus by Channel 4 who concluded in January:

    “Mr Livingstone is wrong to claim there’s a £729m surplus that’s sitting in the bank, and there is no ‘entirely separate’ budget for investment projects. If he cuts fares, TfL would expect to lose £1.12bn in income from fares  – and that’s a hole he wouldn’t be able to plug without hitting the day-to-day funding for London’s transport or taking money from investment projects.”

    You can see their reasons at http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/can-ken-livingstone-deliver-a-fare-deal-for-london

    But maybe Mr Miliband and Mr Fletcher want to divert voters’ attentions from their candidates financial affairs?

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