28. 03. 2008

The Battle for London Mayor

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Comments (14)

I blame London’s taxi-drivers personally. How else can one possibly explain the lead over Ken Livingstone that Boris Johnson has apparently taken in the polls for the London Mayoral Election? On the rare occasions that I have to endure a ride with a garrulous cabbie, any conversation all but instantly comes round to the evil, scheming, cabbie-hating monster that is Ken Livingstone - according to them. I have never come across such a vein of venom and vituperation.

The prospect of Boris as Mayor of London is just so scary. Either he is a genuine, out-and-out buffoon, in which case London becomes a laughing stock alongside its Mayor, or he is a pseudo-buffoon, in which case his true ideological nastiness will soon be revealed. The prospect of Boris taking over London’s Climate Change Action Plan is even scarier. He may have learnt not to reveal his full contrarian bigotry on climate change, but he really doesn’t get it, and would rapidly scale back or completely get rid of the ambitious targets in the Action Plan. And that would be a massive set back. Internationally, London is widely recognised as one of a handful of cities showing real leadership on climate change.

And Ken Livingstone has driven that personally, in a very effective partnership with his deputy, Nicky Gavron. Just as he has driven a host of other environmental and sustainability priorities. The surreal sight of Boris on the TV castigating Ken for his “lack of environmental vision” was almost too much to cope with. So I just hope all the environmental NGOs can rally the troops in London in a pro-Ken campaign, even if they can’t come out and explicitly endorse him.

Lastly, right now, I can’t help comparing Ken’s approach on these issues with other luminaries in the Labour Party. He really does understand how to make the joins between a high quality physical environment, sustainable resource use and a commitment to social justice, whilst still driving forward plans for increased economic prosperity. Particularly through a different kind of energy economy. It’s sort of grown-up.

Unlike the jejune fantasising about a “nuclear renaissance” in the UK, creating “hundreds of thousands of jobs” which now emanates from BERR – the sort of over-hyped nonsense which has to be put on a par with claims made nearly 50 years ago that nuclear power would one day be “too cheap to meter”.

Wouldn’t it be great, just once, to hear a senior Labour Politician (other than Ken) enthusing in similar terms about the hundreds of thousands of real jobs that would be created were we ever to get serious about energy efficiency?

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28. 03. 2008
Chloe Fletcher

Well done Mr Porritt, I finally feel I have read a commentary on the London Mayoral Elections that truely reflects the reality of the decision that Londoners must face. Environment should be a key election issue for the London Mayor and Boris Johnson's hypocritical and contradictory policies on the environment should be made public for all to see.

Boris opposes Heathrow expansion, but is actively campaigning for a new London airport in the Thames Estuary.

He says he supports the polluter pays principle, but opposes measures that would see the drivers of gas guzzlers pay for their polluting habits.

He talks about the need to comabt climate change, but applauded George Bush for ripping up the Kyoto protocol

Finally he talks about the need for renewables, decentralised energy and CHP, but is also an avid supporter of new nuclear power stations.

We cannot afford to have a fake like Boris as London Mayor, when we need the leadership, commitment and vision that Livingstone has shown on the environment.

28. 03. 2008

Jonanthan, this is so spot on I am unsure what else needs to be said. Let this be a warning to anyone environmentally minded (and let's face it, we all should be by now), with Boris at the healm green groups will have no voice, isn't it telling enough that he sides with George Bush in not signing up to Kyoto? Ken is right when he says that the election result on 2 May will be a message to the world about whether action on climate change is taken seriously by the electorate...if Boris wins, we are doomed, if Ken wins we continue on a path of reducing emissions and saving our planet, as well as London from flooding and rising temperatures...2008 is a decisive year indeed, let's make sure we get off to a good start in London, with the American elections in November, London (as it does on a constant basis under Ken's leadership) can set the world on the right path. There's a lot at stake.

29. 03. 2008
Tim Worstall

"Wouldn’t it be great, just once, to hear a senior Labour Politician (other than Ken) enthusing in similar terms about the hundreds of thousands of real jobs that would be created were we ever to get serious about energy efficiency?"

Please, a little basic economics, pretty please?

The creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs is a cost of such schemes, not a benefit.

Or are you unaware of the basics of opportunity costs?

29. 03. 2008
Roger Levett

Dead right, well said.

30. 03. 2008
Dave Hill

Hello Jonathan. I've been writing about the mayoralty campaign for the Guardian and keeping my own blog about it. I'm interested to read that you see such clear differences between Ken and Boris on green issues, given that some commentators - and, notably, the Lib Dem candidate Brian Paddick - have expressed doubts about the true environmental benefits of Ken's LEZ and his proposed new £25 extra- congestion charge on gas-guzzlers (particularly as small cars will be exempted from the c-charge altogether under the same policy.)

As a voter as well as a journalist I'm finding it quite difficult to reach conclusions about the competing policies and claims of the three leading candidates and those of Sian Berry. I'd be fascinated to read more from you on this subject.

31. 03. 2008
Tom Hunt

I am a floating voter and haven't yet made up my mind - I vere towards the Greens but think that will be a wasted vote. I have looked carefully at the environmental positions of the three main candidates and have concluded that Boris Johnson is best placed to deliver a green revolution for London while not upsetting the balance between the needs of people in terms of transport and business.

In terms of the £25 tax that Ken is proposing there is no other country that taxes supposed pollution like this. If you want to tax pollution then let's tax people on the amount of time spent driving in the dirtiest parts of London. It is common sense.

I have also concluded that by your introduction of Boris being a buffoon etc that even if he came up with something that you thought was a good idea you wouldn't say so. If you want to blog about something as important as the environment then don't come in with rose tinted spectacles. Be moderate, be fair and have some common sense.

31. 03. 2008
marc fenton

So called non governmental organizations which are largely financed by the taxpayer are supposed to be politcally impartial aren't they and as such should not support a candidate one way or another ,have you forgotten or don't you care.

31. 03. 2008
Stop Boris

Couldn't agree more about the threat posed by Boris to the environment and the Climate Change Action Plan. It's terrifying that this man is in the lead in the polls and that people are failing to scrutinise him on the issues and reach the obvious conclusion that he simply hasn't a clue when it comes to the environment (or much else).

04. 04. 2008
phil korbel

A Boris victory is all too scary, and sorry to say this Londoners, but this is bigger than London. I'm sure that many mainstream politicians in the big UK cities have taken some degree of confidence from Green Ken's agenda, as they tentatively edge towards meaningful climate change mitigation strategies. Here in Manchester there are brave moves embodied in the City Council's Climate Change Strategy, but there's political nervousness in some quarters over a possible congestion charge. A Boris victory would see many would-be climate change champions put their heads back in the sand.

08. 04. 2008

Never underestimate the greed and stupidity of the general public - a good-natured, humourous, slightly clumsy bloke that people thought was a bit of a laugh so therefore would make a good leader has won before. No - not Boris - but George W Bush.

And look at all the great things that man did.

31. 03. 2008
Simon Propper

Boris' lead in the polls holds a lesson for the green movement and particularly its political wing.

Green policies must be fair and non-discriminatory. We cannot expect to win widespread support if green politicians are seen to victimise sections of the community when they reach positions of power.

I am no fan of the SUV in the city, but I have long held to the principle that the polluter should pay - proportionately. SUV owners and those of other fuel hungry vehicles already pay tax according to the fuel they use. In fact they pay more than their share when road tax is taken into account.

If London is to have a carbon tax, it should be proportionate to the pollution each person causes. Mr Livingstone had the option of using the government's seven bands for vehicle emissions - all of which are linked to the license plate. He could and should have structured the tax as a progressive scale. Instead he pandered to prejudice and (misjudged) public opinion with a scale of, no charge, £8 and £25.

A Prius emits about one third as much as a Range Rover. Under Ken's rules, you can drive your Prius all day everyday for no charge, but just one trip in your range Rover will cost £25. How would it feel to be an SUV owner using the bus everyday, but on one exceptional occasion needing to drive into town? Bad taxes make bad outcomes.

Ken Livingston has done a disservice to the green movement by confirming widely held prejudices that it cannot be trusted - worse, that it victimises people of whom it dissaproves. We will do better without him.

01. 04. 2008

I hope that Londoners will rise to the occasion this next month and chuck Boris out of the equation.

As the founder of a small environmental NGO I would like to tell Marc, that it is only charities which are not allowed to participate in political campaigning. Other groups of people who come together to address urgent social or environmental issues have every right to stand up to a irresponsible politicians. Also, NGOs are NOT largely financed by tax money - but by people who share a common interest. It is ridiculous to assume that we will be impartial on issue of such importance.

Simon Popper, I think you miss the point. You imply Greens are so unfair. Lets talk about 'fair'. Do you think it is 'fair' to our children to chuck carbon emissions in the atmosphere? There is nothing 'fair' about being lenient on pollution and carbon emissions. Yes, I would tax Prius owners too for the emissions that they produce, but your critique is wholly out of line with the severity of the threat ahead.

Tom Hunt - No-one could honestly swing from Green to Boris with any conviction. Ken Livingstone is respected internationally as a champion of responsible leadership in the face of climate change. Meanwhile, Boris prefers to court the media with juvenile antics - are you seriously telling us that you do not think he is a Buffoon? I can hardly believe that you are for real. I think you are a Tory plant.

01. 04. 2008
Philip Booth

I give a warm welcome to news that Labour and the Greens in London have signed a pact to join forces to defeat Boris Johnson. Siân Berry has asked those who planned to vote for her on May 1 to pick Livingstone as their number-two choice, while the mayor has urged his voters to put the Green party candidate second.

In a joint statement they said: "Tackling climate change and creating a fairer London must be at the top of any serious mayor's agenda. Boris Johnson, who supported George W Bush in opposing the Kyoto treaty and would scrap the CO2 charge on gas-guzzlers, cannot be trusted with London's environment."

London's progressive and environmental agendas are clearly under threat from Johnson as comments on this blog note. London must continue to be in the forefront of tackling climate change for the sake of everyone's future. Ken Livingstone and Siân Berry alone are committed to implement of further environmental initiatives such as the £25-a-day CO2 charge on gas-guzzlers. We cannot afford to let Johnson who supported George W Bush in opposing the Kyoto treaty take on this important role.

17. 04. 2008
Rachel Joyce

I find your opinions hard to reconcile. I am a member of Friends of the Earth, your former organisation. I am an environmental and wildlife campaigner.

I fail to see how the concreting over of London, the waste of paper in Ken's self promoting Newspaper, the traffic lights that keep cars standing still with emissions pumping out can be considered green?

Not to mention the jaunts to see neo-communist leaders, the "ambassadors" for London across the world resulting in massively unnecessary airline emissions, and the dictatorial manner in which he behaves - only through a proper democracy can we push the green agenda, not through neo-communist spin.

Take in contrast Boris' plans to plant many trees instead of the newspaper, have orbital public transport in outer London, and stop over development and garden grabbing.

The green choice is obvious - it's Boris.

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