A dark, damp and freezing cellar beneath Waterloo station isn’t an
obvious choice for launching a political campaign — but that’s where Team Ken officially kicked off their Mayoral bid last night. Various prominent lefties were brought into the Old Vic
Tunnels to warm up for the man himself. Eddie Izzard was also present to fill in the gaps and keep everyone engaged until the bar opened.
Most of the policies discussed have already been made public, but there were a few new, colourful additions. Ken pointed out that Transport for London purchases energy at half the normal
price, so why don’t they buy more and sell it back to ordinary Londoners? An inexperienced, local government-run energy firm is just what Londoners need, after all. He also promised do everything
he could (shouting loudly) to stop Britain turning into a ‘mini-America’, despite extolling the power and prominence of New York mayors a few moments earlier.
There were plenty of jabs towards ‘the Tory Mayor,’ whose name appeared to be a taboo. Aside from the usual attacks on cutting frontline policing and ramping up Tube fares, most of the
hits on Boris were highly personal. Ken brought in class politics, suggesting it must be difficult for ‘Eton boys’ to cope on a salary of £143,000 (not withstanding his income of
£238,646 last year,
of course). He also ploughed on with the ‘chicken feed’ line, making no reference to his own increasingly serious tax problems.
Overall, there were two themes that stuck out for me. The first is that Ken is making this race about him versus ‘the man’. In this case, ‘the man’ is a combination of the
Cameron, Osborne, Boris, Tony Blair, anyone in New Labour, Murdoch, etc. Many of the issues he’s chosen to run on — EMA, home insulation, NHS reforms — are not London-centric issues.
Just like in his GLC days, Ken wants to use and abuse his platform to throw stones across the river at the Government for policies he doesn’t like.
The second was a lack of aspiration and optimism for the future. He’s happy to attack the ‘Thatcher-esque’ government over cuts, 50p tax, new home building and NHS, but glossed over the
financial situation of the nation. He’s against the Thames Estuary airport, but offered no alternative to sort London’s air capacity. He wants to stamp every new Routemaster ‘the world’s most
expensive bus’ and hold back on ordering any more. His fare cuts will throttle investment in the tube when it needs it the most.
As Ken said himself, ‘no one can complain the candidates are too similar in this race’. Team Boris have yet to rouse their troops, but they were still omnipresent last night. An
excruciatingly annoying van was circling the venue playing Happy Days Are Here Again, to remind Labour they aren’t the only ones up for
the fight. It’s certainly is going to be one hell of an election, and this is only the beginning.