On the first morning back at work in the New Year Ken Livingstone and I were out with a host of party members leafleting commuters coming off the trains at London Bridge. They were fed up with the shocking fare increases and the increasingly erratic service from South Eastern.
And where was Boris Johnson? Off in some ski chalet in the Alps.
And that for me summed up the Mayoral Election and why it is so important for, not just London, but for London’s role in the country that Ken wins this election.
I can almost hear jaws dropping at that statement.
Ken and I have – as they say – history. We have been on opposing wings of the Labour Party for best part of four decades (as his books reveal) and I wouldn’t be backing him for Foreign Secretary. But he’s running for Mayor and he’s serious about it.
When I was Transport Minister we were able to push on projects that would deal with London’s transport deficit. We got things done. Ken understood also what was necessary to consolidate London’s position as a world city. We need that sort of vision again. And we need a serious approach to Government. Boris might be light entertainment, but look at the clips of his cringingly embarrassing performance at the Beijing Olympics – is that the image we want for our country?
It has been clear for some time that the Tory High Command are betting on a Boris win to relaunch Cameron’s Premiership. If he loses they will be forced by public opinion and their backbenchers to think again. So it is clear if you want to send a message to Cameron that he will understand you have to dump Boris.
The public in London is facing serious times with threats to its hospital, policing transport and economic dynamism. The Mayoral Election is not a panacea, but it is crucial that we get it right. That is why it has to be Ken.
So it is clear that voters in London have a big responsibility, not only to determine their own future, but also that of their fellow citizens in the rest of the country.
John Spellar is the Labour MP for Warley.