Michael White, the Guardian’s veteran Assistant Editor, has an article today assessing the shape of UK politics over the year ahead. Although sometimes verbose (a problem I am well aware that I suffer from myself), he is usually extremely perceptive. Today’s article is therefore well worth reading and I agree with many of his conclusions.
However, there is one line in it that is total nonsense. After pointing out the threat that reinvigorated Boris Johnson would present to David Cameron if re-elected to the London Mayorality in May, he goes on to say:
“If Ken beats Boris he will make Miliband’s task harder.”
The reality is the exact opposite. So much so that David Cameron has recognised that his number one priority in 2012 is to ensure that London’s City Hall must remain in Conservative hands. Not the economy; not the growing housing crisis; not Europe and the Eurozone; but London. That is the Prime Minister’s priority for the coming year.
Why? He knows that a Ken Livingstone victory in May would be an essential first step for the Labour Party to win a General Election in 2015.
He also knows that Ken Livingstone’s flair for articulating the impact of Tory policies on the people of London would resonate with millions elsewhere in the country.
The Prime Minister’s grasp on history is probably a little shaky, so he may not be aware that a Labour-run London County Council in the 1930s laid the groundwork for the victorious and reforming Labour Government of 1945: trialling and showcasing how the power of Government can be harnessed to boost the chances of the vast majority of the population.
However, Cameron’s instincts will tell him that a Labour Mayor in City Hall would demonstrate that there is an alternative to a Conservative-led Government more concerned with the interests of a privileged minority than the rest of society. (A Conservative trait also shown by Mayor Johnson and his penchant for meeting bankers and representatives of the financial services in preference to other interests in London.)
So if Cameron is so desperate for Ken Livingstone not to be elected in May, it follows that Ed Miliband is, if anything, even keener to see the Conservatives turned out of City Hall in four months time. This is where Michael White is wrong and dwelling in a 1980s past. Ken Livingstone has more positive and supportive relations with the national Labour leadership than ever before.
A Livingstone victory will be a boost for Ed Miliband and the Labour Party. It will be a sign that the people of London have rejected not only a Conservative Mayor but also those Conservative policies being pursued by his friends holding national office.