Livingstone for London
On 4 May Londoners will have a chance to elect a new mayor and a Greater London Assembly to represent the capital for the first time since the Tories abolished the old Greater London Council in Thatcher's day.
That, in itself, is significant. But, more importantly, the poll gives London's workers the opportunity to cast judgement on Blair's whole »New Labour« programme by rejecting the official Labour candidate in favour of the Independent challenge of Ken Livingstone.
Livingstone was the overwhelming choice of individual and union affiliated members the London Labour Party. His massive lead in the opinion polls shows that he is also the overwhelming choice of millions of Londoners as a whole.
Blair & Co have tried to revive the »loony left« and »Red Ken« tags in a pathetic attempt to dent Livingstone's popularity. They are now trying to dig up dirt on Livingstone's business dealings to question his fitness to run the new London authority with little success. It is, after all, coming from a government which recently restored Peter Mandelson to grace after a brief period of back-bench exile for failing to declare a £ 373,000 loan.
What Blair and his placeman, Frank Dobson, have singularly failed to do is address Londoners' demands on the central issue of the election public transport. And that is the one area in which the new mayor will have some authority.
Though the Greater London Assembly is but a shadow of the old GLC with little more than advisory powers the Mayor of London will run a new transport authority which will cover all aspects of public and private transport in the capital.
Dobson's made it clear he'll do whatever Blair tells him, which means the privatisation of London Underground with all that implies for fares, service and safety. Livingstone is opposed to any tube sell-off and he's promised a four year fare freeze as well.
Livingstone has vowed to root out the »corrupt and racist minority« within the Metropolitan Police under the new mayor's powers to finance new independent authorities to finance London's police and fire services. His campaign has also raised demands for greater control by Londoners over other services such as education and health campaigns which will have to be fought for by the new assembly and the London labour movement.
A Livingstone victory will be a slap in the face for Blair and his right-wing bloc within the Labour Party. It will make it much harder for them in future to impose candidates over the heads of local Labour parties. It will mark the first stage in the fight-back against »New Labour« within the party and the trade union movement.
Ken Livingstone was formally expelled from the Labour Party this week. He's vowed to »be back soon«. That, of course, will depend on the May ballot. We have to ensure that he gets the biggest possible vote to become Mayor of London.
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