Wednesday, 2 April 2008


1) Useful hit in the Morning Advertiser, the newspaper of the Public House trade.

2) The following article appeared a few weeks ago on The Irish Post. Only the last bit is about the GP:

All to play for in Mayoral election by paul donovan

The battle for who will be elected as Mayor of London on May 1 has been warming up over recent weeks with some knives out for incumbent Ken Livingstone.
First, there were a series of articles written by Evening Standard reporter Andrew Gilligan pointing out possible irregularities concerning the conduct of the Mayor's race and policing advisor Lee Jasper. The accusations against Jasper refuse to go away and look set to be investigated by the Greater London Assembly (GLA).
A less significant attack came in the form of a Channel 4 Dispatches programme fronted by New Statesman political editor Martin Bright. The programme was so one sided against the Mayor that few seem to have taken it seriously. More significant has been the drip drip effect of the various allegations against Livingstone.

The Evening Standard has been implacably opposed to Mayor Livingstone since its present editor Veronica Wadley took over from Max Hastings. In the past, the Mayor has been able to offset the Standard's opposition by courting coverage on BBC and ITN local news programmes. There though have been signs of these outlets and bigger players like Radio 4's Today programme beginning to join in an anti-Ken crusade.
There are no doubt some serious accusations to be answered by the Mayor. One concern for many Londoners will be the steadfast way in which he has stood by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Ian Blair and his handling of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. But these concerns are minor compared to the very real achievements.
The imposition of the congestion charge first in central London and then extended to the wider western zone was a bold political move. It was widely opposed at the time but the Mayor had the courage and vision to push the policy through. This move has taken traffic out of the centre of London and improved air quality. More recently the Mayor has imposed a £200 a day charge on polluting lorries coming into London. From October, polluting cars - mainly of the 4x4 variety - will be charged £24 in the congestion zone. Environementally friendly cars will incur no fee.
The Mayor has massively improved the bus network, while a central plank of Conservative opponent and cyclist Boris Johnson has been his opposition to bendy buses.

Significantly, Mayor Livingstone has proved himself to be a politician who has not only seen the danger that global warming represents but is also prepared to take action to counter it - no matter how unpopular.
The Mayor was central to winning the bid for the 2012 Olympics which will bring prosperity to much of east London. There are also opportunities for Irish construction companies to profit from the work available as a result.
A day after the successful Olympic bid was announced the Mayor proved himself a good leader at the time of London bombings of 7 July 2005, managing to pull together all the different communities of the capital. He also reached out to the Muslim community and its leaders by hosting the visit of of Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi's to London. Unpopular in many quarters, the Mayor's actions regarding the visit were in many ways reminiscent of his initiative in the 1980s when as leader of the GLC he invited Gerry Adams over to speak. Groups representing the Muslim community have already pledged their backing for Livingstone and there will be few among the ethnic minorities generally opposing the incumbent come 1 May.
Mayor Livingstone has been good for the Irish community in London. The St Patrick's Day celebrations have become one of the biggest events in the London calender. The Mayor also commissioned research into the true nature of the Irish community in the capital and the challenges it faces. This threw up important data such as an under reading of the number of people of Irish orientation resulting from the last census. There was also data showing Irish people more likely to be among the long term ill that others in London. The Irish were also found to have lower rates of home ownership than average with higher proportions in social rented accomodation.
The main opposition to Livingstone comes from Conservative candidate Boris Johnson and Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick. Both Johnson and former Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner Paddick are strong on the need for more police on the streets, the buses and everywhere else. Johnson also wants to cut paper work for the police very much along the lines of the recommendations made in the recent report from Royal Ulster Constabularly Police Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan. Paddick believes that Sir Ian Blair should go as Met Police Commissioner.
Johnson does make some good points such as the scandal of healthcare in London that means that "a child born in Haringey is three times more likely to die at birth than a child born in Richmond, and that if you travel eight stops on the Jubilee Line, from Westminster to Canning Town, the average life expectancy of the surrounding communities declines by eight years." The Mayor's office though does not have power over healthcare provision.
The Tory candidate also commits to affordable housing but is weak on delivery just saying that he will seek to "work in partnership with local councils." There is also nothing said about the rented sector.

Among the other parties, the Greens have some good ideas such as free insulation for homes, more use of renewable energy sources and cutting fares on public transport. Mayoral candidate Sian Berry though has little chance of winning.

Of more consequence for the Irish community would be to secure the election as a Green Party member of the GLA of Limerick born Noel Lynch. Lynch did a good job for the Irish community when last elected but he lost out in 2004. This time Lynch is hopeful that he can get elected and serve the Irish community at City Hall. Lynch has also significantly urged Green Party supporters to put Mr Livingstone as their second preference in the vote for Mayor.

So it is all to play for in the elections for London Mayor and membership of the GLA. Mayor Livingstone has a good record and no doubt will get many Irish people's votes. There are though other good ideas coming forth from different parties, especially some of the smaller groupings like the Greens. The May elections certainly seem likely to stimulate some interesting debates over the next few months.

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