The stakes at the London election are not at all about the personality contest that the media prefer. They are much more important than that. If the Conservative Party win in London on Thursday there is a very real risk they will conclude that they can intensify their assault on working class people, trade unions, public services and the welfare state.
I have watched the Conservative Party for the whole of my life. They take every opportunity to improve the lot of the rich against everyone else. They are utterly ruthless. They need and want a victory in London and if they get it they will make lives worse for everyone.
Already the Conservative candidate in this election is making a direct appeal to his party’s core values, presenting himself as a “tax-cutting Conservative”. It indicates what would happen under a second Tory term in London. The office of the Mayor of London will be a right wing outpost, pushing the Conservative Party in ever more radical directions – opening up conflict and worsening the social divide in the capital.
Throughout this London campaign Ken Livingstone has been the subject of a ferocious character assassination attempt. For as long as I have been involved in politics the right wing media and the Conservative Party have tried to divert attention from the real issues in politics onto personal attacks and the soap opera of the Westminster bubble. That is all designed to get people to vote against their own interests.
In a few days time London voters have the chance to reject this and vote to make themselves better off, and get a Mayor who will stand up for them as a Conservative government attacks them from all sides – from student fees and the privatisation of the NHS to ripping off pensioners and cutting Education Maintenance Allowance.
Ken Livingstone’s Labour programme for London is rooted in Labour’s socialist values. It offers new and radical ideas to defend the 99%. Intervening in the private housing sector to improve standards and cut rents, or establishing an energy co-op to cut the cost of heating your home, are the sort of progressive measures our politics needs now. Restoring EMA in London shows the total divide in values between the two parties.
By cutting fares Ken is tapping into his strongest London Labour traditions to help people facing hard economic times.
We are back with a right wing government punishing people on low and middle incomes whilst feathering the nests of the richest. If these people are let off the hook on Thursday in the single biggest election before the next general election they will not let up. They will go much further.
The real choice on Thursday is between Labour and Conservative. Voting anything other than Labour in this election will damage the quality of life for millions.
I urge every Labour voter, every trade unionist, peace campaigner, community organiser, co-operator and campaigner for equality to turn out in massive numbers and send the Tories a message they will never forget.