Talk from the chattering classes this week might have centred on tax, spreadsheets and rows in lifts. But ask any of the hundreds of Labour activists who have been out on the doorstep meeting voters this week and they will tell you that the conversations they are having about tax are very different.
The tax issue I’ve been hearing about from voters in my borough of Islington this week is that of tax credits, the cut that has kicked in this week and which Boris Johnson and his friends in the media have stayed resolutely silent on.
Because from this week at least a quarter of a million Londoners are worse off as a result of government cuts to tax credits.
Families with children stand to lose an average of £511 a year as a result of these changes, and over all 118,805 households in London have lost out. These are families on modest and middle incomes, who are already being hit hard by the rising cost of living.
And therefore these are the people who stand to benefit the most from Ken’s key pledges to bear down on the rising cost of living in the capital, by taking action on everything from childcare to energy prices. Above all these are Londoners who have been set back by the steep rise in fares on buses and tubes in the last few years which makes every day life in London a real struggle. Kens Fare Deal will fix that.
That is why I believe that we as activists must not lose sight of the issues that ordinary Londoners are telling us, when we engage with them in our local communities, in our surgeries and on our doorsteps, that really matter to them.
This week Ken launched his crime manifesto. Setting out on Monday his plans to tackle knife crime with a designated police officer in every school, on Tuesday his plan to tackle gang crime, drawing from the experience of pioneering projects in Lambeth and Glasgow, and on Wednesday making his 999 pledge, to defend and bolster Safer Neighbourhood Teams.
Watching, hearing and reading the news this week you’d be forgiven for missing this however. Yet I know that for the people I represent, these are the policies they want to hear about, which respond to their very real local concerns.
And no wonder they are concerned.
On Boris Johnson’s watch youth knife crime has soared, yet he has admitted cutting 1,700 police officer posts. This is exactly why we need to move the mayoral debate back to discussing the bread and butter issues of fares, policing and housing.
The bottom line is that this election is about London either accepting the agenda of the government, or standing up against it. An agenda explicitly reflected in the budget, where the richest 1% were rewarded with a tax cut – relentlessly lobbied for by Boris Johnson, incidentally- that pensioners paid for.
If Boris Johnson is re-elected in just over three weeks, the implication will be that the government and their damaging agenda of fast and deep cuts, which are hitting families, children and the poorest hardest are acceptable.
Catherine West is the leader of Islington Council