The most striking thing about tonight’s mayoral hustings on
Newsnight was how often Brian Paddick attacked Ken Livingstone. Paddick, who turned in the most assured performance of all the candidates, accused Livingstone of being like a ‘bad 1970s
comedian who plays to whatever audience he’s talking to.’ He also, interestingly, sided with Boris Johnson when the discussion turned to the 50p tax rate and then the candidate’s
own tax affairs.
It is tempting to see Paddick’s performance tonight as testament to how keen the Liberal Democrat top brass are to see Livingstone defeated in London. They know that if Labour fails to win in
London, the pressure on Ed Miliband will increase and because the media tend to only hunt one leader at a time, that will take the heat off Clegg.
I suspect that the major effect of tonight’s debate will be to put Livingstone under greater scrutiny. During the programme, he appeared to imply that the people who rioted needed a mayor who
was on their side — a line that Boris jumped on. He and the other candidates also agreed to publish their tax returns. This means that the whole tax issue, which has done so much harm to him,
will rumble on.
Boris was surprisingly low-key this evening. He needn’t go after his predecessor in the way that many expected him to. But I suspect that overall the effect of the debate will be to hurt