Monday evening I went along to Leyton Town Hall (now Orwellianly renamed Leyton Management Offices – what are they managing I worry?) to attend Ken Livingstone’s ‘Tell Ken’ event.
I took the liberty of recording a few bits which you can listen to above.
Overall I found Ken’s tone very positive – I had become disillussioned with his last term as mayor towards the end, with his seemingly too cosy relationship with the corporate interests of the City of London and his love of skyscrapers and big developments. He seemed to have long forgotten the Red Ken that I met when chairing a Labour Students public meeting during the City Poly occupation of 1991.
Maybe I had primed myself for disappointment by using the Labour Party’s refusal to select Ken as its mayoral candidate in 2000 and his subsequent expulsion as the long overdue catalyst for leaving the party I’d viewed as a birthright.
The fact that he later rejoined the party and stood for Mayor as a Labour candidate in 2004, even after the invasion of Iraq at a time when Labour was very much the belicose Party of war, was a bit too much for me at the time.
(Some unfortunate young Labour candidates knocked on my door around this period and received a rant about how they were no better than members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party with hands drenched in the blood of Iraqi children – they didn’t seem to see this coming for some reason).
However, he atoned slightly this evening by repeating his commitment to wealth redistribution – and using whatever means at his disposal to help bring that about – such as giving free travel to kids as 40% of children in London are from families living below the poverty line.
He would also look to expand the capital’s social housing sector – although I wasn’t clear whether he can build housing as mayor – and return housing estates as the kind of mixed communities they once were (such as I grew up in), rather than now where you need to be homeless and jobless to be eligible for housing.
Ken explained that the only reason he signed up to the Olympic bid was to get £8bn worth of investment into the East End. He talked about how the land south of the Olympic Park to the Thames would be the next big development area with capacity for 40,000 new homes and 50,000 jobs and that the mayor should be selling this opportunity to the growing markets in China, India and Brazil.
I asked him about Trams – and whether he would revive his proposals to extend London’s Tram network beyond Croydon. To this he conjured up a beguiling image – a tram route that would follow the North Circular from Wembley arcing across the north of London to Waltham Forest.
That romance of that vision alone is almost worth my vote.
There’s more info about Ken’s campaign to be re-elected mayor here.
Do you think there’s any chance that we’ll be able to write-off the Boris years as some kind of bizarre collective halucination?