Monday, May 07, 2012

Mayoral and GLA Elections

Perhaps the biggest surprise of last week's Mayoral and GLA Elections in London was the fact that Ken Livingstone came so close to victory. None of the polls that I had seen were predicting a 3% margin of victory for Boris Johnson, so Ken clearly made up some real ground against his rival during the campaign.

But on the whole I thought the Mayoral campaign was disappointing. With a city as exciting as London it was surprising that neither Ken nor Boris were able to set out a vision for what they wanted to achieve over their 4 year term of office. Boris looked completely stumped when he was asked what his "big idea" was in a BBC London interview; and it was only after a lengthy pause that he came up with 'driverless tube trains' as a response. Ken came closest with some nods towards affordable transport and improved education and employment prospects, but it was all fairly slim stuff. A mayoral contest should be about candidates setting out how London will be different after their 4 years in charge, and I was hoping and expecting some discussion about that 'vision', with ideas similar to those being espoused by Mayor Bloomberg in New York, who is looking to move the City's economy away from an over-reliance on the financial services industry.

Val Shawcross did amazingly well in the Lambeth and Southwark GLA seat, increasing her majority to over 52,000. Val has been a good and effective representative for the two boroughs and it was pleasing to see her returned so comfortably. Val has shown strength and leadership in South London over the past 12 years, and long may that continue.

The Lib Dems continued their national meltdown, although the result gave us our first glimpse of what has happened to their vote in Southwark. Remember, just 4 years ago the Lib Dems were targeting Lambeth & Southwark as a GLA constituency they believed they could win. As it was only 18,000 people voted for them and knocked them into a distant third behind the Conservatives. Brian Paddick's truly pathetic 4% in the Mayoral election must have local Lib Dems extremely worried. A lot can happen between now and 2014, but if the swings achieved on Thursday were repeated in our borough local elections Labour would win 60 of 63 seats!

Maybe, just maybe it is time for Southwark's Lib Dems to rethink their apparent strategy of opposing every single thing that we do as an Administration and convincing themselves that undiluted negativity and opposition represents an alternative vision for our borough?

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