Ealing MP Angie Bray with London Mayor Boris Johnson
Angie Bray, Conservative MP for Ealing Central & Acton, provides this week's Constituency Matters.
May 3rd will be the fourth GLA election. I was involved in the first two as a London Assembly candidate, so I know how important this election is every four years for Londoners. Some may doubt this, but City Hall runs some of the most important services across London, including public transport, policing, planning and environmental. The Mayor of London is a central figure in the life of every Londoner.
Boris Johnson has run London for the last four years. In that time, he has shown himself to be a natural leader for the Capital. He is a figure that appeals to Londoners across the board. He has also delivered considerable improvements during a four year term which has coincided with a difficult economic downturn. During that time, despite financial challenges, he has held down the costs of City Hall which had been spiralling out of control. His share of Council Tax has been frozen, and this year, actually cut. He has now promised that if re-elected, he will deliver a further 10% cut across the next four years. In Boris, London taxpayers have a mayor who is always mindful of the cost to their pockets.
Amongst the most important things he has achieved is the extra 1,000 police officers on the streets of the Capital since his term of office started – and crime across London is down. On transport, he has protected the full Crossrail programme, despite huge financial pressures. On top of that, he also kept the funds to invest in tube station upgrades and Thameslink. And let’s not forget the Boris Bikes and the cycle lane network!
There is an issue too about keeping promises. Back in 2008, Boris promised west Londoners a further consultation on the extended congestion charge zone. He also promised to listen to what they said. They said no, and he got rid of it. Compare this with his predecessor, Mr Livingstone, who, as Mayor, consulted on the westward extension. Londoners said no, but he went ahead anyway. The Routemaster: Ken Livingstone said in 2001 that "only a ghastly dehumanised moron would want to get rid of the Routemaster". Yet, he replaced the Routemaster with the much-derided bendy buses. Boris, in his 2008 manifesto, promised to get rid of bendy buses and reinstate Routemasters – and that is exactly what he’s doing.
Yet again, this time round, Ken Livingstone’s making promises he knows he cannot keep. He says he wants to keep fares down while knowing he can only afford to do this by spending money earmarked for transport improvements. Of course, he’s made promises on fares before – in his 2004 election manifesto, he promised to keep fares below inflation. But, within a few months the promise was broken. He's promised young Londoners he’ll reintroduce the old Education Maintenance Allowance – something he knows he does not have the power to deliver. In fact, his manifesto promises add up to well over £2 billion, and he has still failed to explain where the money will come from.
I shared my eight years on the London Assembly with Ken Livingstone. It was at the same time a fascinating experience, as well as a depressing one. He was always a consummate politician. But, as the eight years rolled on, his arrogance began to take over and a certain contempt crept in: for example, insulting a Jewish journalist, using taxpayers’ money to visit his socialist chums in Cuba and Venezuela, inviting Sheikh Qaradawi (who has endorsed terrorism, wife-beating and the execution of homosexuals) to City Hall, allowing his crony-colleague Lee Jasper to channel public funds into a number of highly questionable organisations, and of course, spending £30 million of taxpayers’ money towards a tram through Ealing which absolutely nobody wanted.
Can London trust someone who described tax-avoiders as “rich b******s”, who shouldn’t be allowed to vote - and then turns out to be exactly one of those himself? A real case of do as I say, not as I do, if ever there was one. In fact, who does London really want to be waving the flag at the Olympic Games this summer? My vote will be for Boris.