Monday, 2 August 2010

Ken launches attack on Oona

The race for the Labour nomination to be Mayor of London took a robust turn last week with an attack from one of Ken's biggest and baddest backers. Len Duvall, Assembly Member and regarded as a bit of a bruiser has been chosen to administer, er, a bruise to the Oona King campaign.

Seizing on Oona's apparent willingness to consider means-testing for Freedom Passes big Len says this:

As an Assembly member I do not want to go into a London election campaign on a platform that is open to means testing for the Freedom Pass.

Boris Johnson would run rings round us.

We should not give our Tory opponents a clear opening amongst hundreds of thousands of older and disabled Londoners, or – worse still – give the Tories the ground they need to start to water down the Freedom Pass.

Figures shows show 51,691 Freedom Passes issued in Barnet for older Londoners and 5,903 for disabled people. 43,791 in total have been issued in Bexley, 63,671 in Bromley, and 48,827 in Havering, for example. These are not the super rich and they should not have to face means testing. And older Londoners are the most likely to vote in elections.

To administer a means test for schemes like the Freedom Pass you could only make savings by removing more than just the richest from those who qualify. Means testing often deters people from applying for concessions they are entitled to. It opens up the question of what other concessions should be means tested; in a city with excellent concessionary schemes – like free bus and tram travel for under-18s – that would be a disaster. And it would erode the stake that many Londoners have in the public transport system.

It’s not the technicality though. Most importantly we would show we lack judgement and are not on the side of ordinary people.

Oona King has argued recently: “If there is a choice, then I want the money to go to the poorest, not to pay for the richest like Prince Charles to go free,” and “if you are the mayor and you have got less money coming in you need to ensure the average pensioner can have the same experience or better than those richer ones."

But it is not Prince Charles who would lose out; it is the ordinary Londoners who rely on concessionary travel every day. We must be on their side and show that we are on their side.
Ken Livingstone will protect the Freedom Pass as he has always done and he will protect London’s other travel concessions. He will stand up for London and work to protect Londoners from the combined effects of economic uncertainty and government cuts. He is already taking the argument to Boris Johnson and the Con-Dem government over fare increases, police cuts and damaging changes to housing benefit.

Along with the majority of Labour’s London Assembly members, I am backing Ken Livingstone. I am more confident with every day that passes that this was the right call.

I'm actually writing this from Hong Kong airport waiting for a connection to Manila. On the way I watched, for the first time the cult London film Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrells. Len Duvall very much reminds me of the big brusier charecter that supports Hatchet Harry - and together with the backing of LBC Radio Ken's campaign is now supported by big guns from across the party and the media. Expect more bruises.


  1. Len will be after you. He knows when you will return to London. More importantly he knows where you live.

    You have been warned. Don't be a muppet - keep your head down and watch your back.

    You have been warned.

  2. cor blimey guv'nnah fanks fer the warning, ee's not ter be messed wiv is big Len. Lavs 'is mum though.