Tom Copley’s London Eye
It’s been a month since I had the great honour of being elected to the London Assembly. It was an odd moment of delight combined with sadness that Ken Livingstone – a man whom I have admired ever since I became politically active – had narrowly lost the mayoral vote.
The office of the Mayor of London is unique in British politics. What London needs from its mayor is inspirational leadership, a clear vision for the future, and creative thinking – someone who will use all the power and influence at their disposal to build a better future for our great city. Unfortunately what London’s got is Boris Johnson.
The most impressive thing about Boris Johnson is how utterly unimpressive he gets away with being. This was apparent during the election campaign, but viewed up close within City Hall his incompetence is quite staggering.
In just one month he has got himself into a muddle appointing a deputy mayor for policing who was ineligible because of his position as a local councillor, demonstrated complete ignorance of a housing pledge he signed up to with great fanfare during the election campaign, and already revealed to me under questioning that he won’t fulfil a pledge in his Nine Point Plan to increase police numbers by 1,000 by the end of his term. With serious questions still to answer over Transport for London’s readiness for the Olympics in just a few weeks, where’s Boris? Why he’s in New York – promoting his book. Yet now as during the election campaign, the media seems uninterested in any of this.
Whatever Johnson’s overblown assertions to the contrary, I’m in no doubt that he has designs on becoming prime minister. I’m not convinced it will ever happen, but that’s almost irrelevant. The real danger for London is that a mayor who is already failing to pull his weight becomes even less interested in running this city and ever more distracted by his desire for the keys to Downing Street. That’s not good enough. Our city deserves a mayor who already knows he’s doing the top job in British politics.
After the fanfare of the Olympics, what new projects does Johnson have in the pipeline? So far he has got by overseeing the projects initiated by his predecessor – the Olympics, Crossrail and the London Overground. Boris does the ribbon cutting, but it was Ken who laid the foundations. As Ken always used to point out – running London is like running up a down escalator: if you stand still you start going backwards. What are Boris’ big ideas for the future? Who knows?
We can’t wait four years to challenge Johnson’s record – we need to start now. He needs to be held to account for the promises he has already started breaking, for his complacency and for his lack of vision. I’ll be working hard with my Labour Group colleagues to ensure that we ask him the tough questions Londoners expect us to ask, and show up his lack of vision for our city.
After thirty years at the forefront of London Labour politics, the Livingstone chapter is now closed. I want to pay tribute to Ken. He has served London and the Labour Party for four decades as a local councillor, GLC Leader, Member of Parliament and mayor. For many of us he has been inspirational in demonstrating what a radical left-wing politician can achieve. Few politicians evoke genuine love from party activists the way Ken does – the “two Tonys” (Benn and Blair) being the other obvious examples. Of course, like them he has vociferous critics within his own party. But he leaves behind an enviable legacy that he and the Labour Party should be proud of.
City Hall’s loss is LBC’s gain, however, as he returns to his popular Saturday morning radio show. For the London Labour Party it’s time to reflect on the 2012 campaign, to build a strong and united campaign for the local elections in 2014 and the General Election in 2015, and to start preparing early for the next mayoral election in 2016. Whether or not Johnson is the Tory candidate at that election, and I doubt he will be, Labour needs a candidate with a profile that matches the size of the office they seek to fill, together with a deep love of London and a compelling vision for its future. The search for that candidate needs to start now.
Tom Copley is a Labour London Assembly Member. He writes here in a personal capacity.