Stop Boris to stop the Tories
On practically every major policy Boris Johnson is joined at the hip with David Cameron and George Osborne. That is why Thursday’s London mayoral election is so important. It is a chance for Londoners to deliver a verdict not just on Boris’ record as mayor, but on the direction in which the government is taking us. On austerity, prioritising tax cuts for millionaires and dealing with phonehacking, Johnson, Cameron and Osborne have been at one. While Londoners suffer the results of austerity – public service cuts, recession and unemployment – Boris has been foursquare behind the Coalition’s economic policies. In the run-up to the budget it was Boris who called for the 50p tax rate to be cut, with the resulting tax increases for pensioners, charities and others. And of course, Boris called the accusations of phonehacking against News of the World ‘codswallop‘, making Jeremy Hunt sound like a bastion of probity.
Labour has admitted that we made mistakes by not regulating the banks properly. Contrast that with the Tories approach to their mistakes. Johnson, Cameron and Osborne have shown no contrition for their mistaken policies, which have driven the economy into a double-dip recession. Rather than show remorse the Tories are set to carry on regardless. I do not believe that David Cameron is an unreflective man, after-all he has been prepared to reinvent himself from being Norman Lamont’s right hand man to champion of ‘compassionate Conservatism’. Losing the London mayoral election could be the short, sharp shock that is needed to persuade Cameron to change course.
On the other hand, a victory for Boris would embolden those who want to inflict even more disastrous policies on the country. Last Wednesday, Jon Moulton, a Tory donor, told Newsnight that the answer to the recession, caused by austerity, was more austerity. The next day, Liam Fox wrote in the Daily Telegraph calling for more cuts and reform of employment laws to make it easier to fire people. There is no evidence these policies will work, but they will wreak untold damage to people’s lives and livelihoods. If Conservatives are prepared to advocate these policies now, imagine what they will be calling for if Boris wins?
People sometime say to me that they will vote for Boris because he is funny. I always say he will still be funny when he is not mayor but we will not have to suffer his policies. There is no doubt that Boris Johnson is charismatic, amusing and, in some ways, charming. But charisma in itself is not a qualification for political leadership. Political leaders need to offer policies that address the needs and aspirations of those they hope to represent. This is where there is a stark difference between Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone. Ken’s manifesto fizzes with radical, practical and imaginative ideas – from cutting fares to building more affordable housing and creating a London energy cooperative to bring down energy bills. In contrast, Boris would hike fares at time when Londoners’ budgets are under pressure and continue promoting tax cuts for the richest in society at the expense of everyone else. Most importantly, Ken stands against the yoke of austerity that Britain is subject to, while Boris backs the policy to the hilt.
The London mayoralty carries the largest personal mandate of any politician in Europe, bar the French and Portuguese presidents. In the next few days, both in France and London voters will have a chance to pass judgment on austerity policies that are wrecking their economies. This could be a major turning point that leads to a change of direction to policies closer to those in the US that have seen it recover growth. Londoners have a unique chance to send a message that the government must change course. That means in London we must stop Boris to stop the Tories.
Omar Salem is a Labour party member in Hampstead and Kilburn
50p tax rate, Boris Johnson, David Cameron, French presidency, George Osborne, Ken Livingstone, News of the World