Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Time's running out, Oona

Ken Livingstone needed a strong challenger with a coherent vision in the race for Labour Mayoral nomination. Whilst Oona King has many positive qualities she's so far failed to articulate a clear vision for London and time's running out fast. If she's to stand a chance at getting the nomination (or my vote for that matter) she needs to quickly fill in the significant gaps in her policy positions and steer clear of recent personalised attacks.

Unfortunately I am going to miss the Labour Mayoral hustings in Brent at the end of this month due to a prior committment. That's a pity as I had been looking forward to seeing more of Oona King and what she might deliver for London if elected. I am far from certain that Ken is necessarily the best choice for Labour, indeed I would have been pleased to see Alan Johnson join the race. Sadly that wasn't to be. So, given I might now not see either her or Ken in the flesh I am going to have to make my mind up on who to vote from other sources. The appearance of both candidates on the Politics Show this week was one such opportunity and I'm not sure some of the content reflected that well on Oona.

The last Mayoral election was, of course, marked by a highly partisan campaign by the Evening Standard against Ken Livingstone. The central allegation that Ken had indulged in cronyism now looks ever more ironic given who was in charge of the Evening Standard at the time and subsequent events. Its unfortunate then that Oona chose one of the few opportunities members like me may have to get a sense of her approach to re-heat those Standard allegations one more time by banging on about Ken's supposed cronyism. If that was the end of you could possibly pass it off as an aberration but from @MayorWatch in the world of Twitter I understand she also circulated a briefing note at MQT containing other elements of the Standard campaign.

What's surprising is that I think this is highly unlikely to help her cause in any case. You would have to have been living under a rock for the past 3 years not to know the ins and outs of the Lee Japser story. Anybody who is tending towards supporting Ken this time round will certainly have taken that into account by now. In my view the only outcome from the strategy will be the convince wavering voters outside of the party that Labour is divided, at war with itself in London and unworthy of support.

A more profitable approach would be to concentrate on new policy ideas. These have left me underwhelmed to say the least. On housing I can't see any great difference between her and Ken. She is for example suggesting that we revert back to the standard that new developments must contain 50% affordable housing, something he first implemented. And whilst nobody would disagree that knife crime is an extremely serious problem in London, the challenge for the Mayor is that they have control over relatively few of the levers that might exert a significant influence on it. There is a real danger of over promising and then failing to deliver, something Boris is struggling with right now.

By contrast the Mayor has extensive powers over both transport and planning and I can see precious little that might give an insight into what she would do in these areas. Transport policy in particular affects the lives of most Londoners every day and is an area where, more than most, the current administration's lack of a coherent approach is most evident. I don't believe any candidate will deserve to be elected without a vision for how Londoners will get about the city now and into the next decade.

Finally, I like 'new' and 'fresh' as much as the next person but nothing in politics has intrinsic value simply because its 'new'. The 'new' thing has to be in some way demonstrably better than the 'old' thing its replacing. So simply talking about how 'new' you are won't cut it. And by the way neither will:

@Oona_King: Popped into Ministry of Sound this afternoon for a quick meeting. If you want a raver vote Labour!

because actually I don't want a raver as Mayor of London. I'd quite like some who can convince me they can manage a multi-billion pound organisation and put London back in the place it deserves to be, as the greatest city on the world. There still time to do that but don't wait, its running out fast


  1. Oona King was my MP for a while. She made no impression at all on the constituency and used to send out newsletters signed 'love, Oona', which as most of us never met the woman seemed inappropriate. Complete lightweight IMO, and playing well out of her league trying to be Mayor.

  2. i have to say as one her past constituents she had a singular lack of diplomacy when sounding off about the iraq war - making serious situations into lightweight events I always felt. A Blair babe indeed!

  3. Thanks for the comments - I'm going to write something on her recently launched transport policy shortly.