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Ken loses it

Duncan Bowie on how Livingstone lost

To capture Cardiff and Birmingham and hold onto Glasgow was a major achievement. Ken's defeat however deflected attention that Labour led on the popular vote for the London Assembly and that Labour is now the largest party with 12 seats, to the Tories' nine, with the Greens and LibDems having 2 seats each, with UKIP and the BNP losing their seats.

What was clear on the doorstep is that many Labour voters voted for Labour in the assembly elections but would not vote for Livingstone as Mayor. Moreover, Johnson drew votes from beyond the natural Tory constituency getting 12% more of the poll than the Conservative Assembly candidates. This includes a massive vote drawn mainly from Greens and LibDems who voted for their parties in the Assembly elections but did not vote for Jenny Jones or Brian Paddick. The Greens assembly vote at 9% was nearly twice the vote of 5% for Jenny Jones as Mayor, the LibDem assembly vote 7% compared with Paddick's 4% which only just beat the independent Siobhan Benita also at 4%. Ken no longer represents a rainbow coalition. Johnson the buffoon attracts the celebrity maverick vote that Ken once did. Ken appeared tired during the campaign everybody knew it was his swan song. What surprised me was the lack of enthusiasm for Ken not just on the doorstep but in the committee rooms. No one expected him to win, and bluntly we all wished we had had a new candidate, though nobody could think of a suitable one. My own preference - at least at the moment - would be Val Shawcross, re-elected as my own constituency assembly member, former leader of Croydon and of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority and Ken's choice for deputy Mayor.

The loss was due as much to the campaign as to Ken, though his carelessness also contributed to his defeat. Defending Ken against the accusation of anti-semitism was not easy. Trying to explain that Ken can be offensive to lots of people is hardly a convincing response. In my view the campaign tactics were poor and the election leaflets poor, especially when compared with the professionalism of the Tories.

The so called manifesto conference was a shambles with no draft manifesto or opportunity to influence its content. Livingstone made a good speech but a few hundred activists raring to go campaigning had nothing to campaign with. The manifesto, with a comprehensive and distinct policy package, finally appeared on the website about two weeks before the election but got little attention in the press and bluntly no obvious attention from Ken or his campaign team.

The campaign team chose to focus on fares. Most of the leaflets, from the beginning of the campaign to the final knock up leaflet, focused on the promise to reduce fares by £1,000, without any clarity if this meant £1,000 a year, or £1,000 for each commuter, train, tube or bus user. While fares are high on the tubes and trains, most commuters are prepared to pay for a better service and convincing commuters that fare reductions would not lead to a poorer service was not easy, especially since the campaign was slow to provide the supporting information those of us leafleting at stations needed.

What is the Labour Party doing appealing to such naked individual self interest rather than promising investment in the transport network? I'm surprised Labour was not challenged under the legislation which bans treating in elections. The leaflets towards the end of the campaign, including the final knock up leaflet stating that Livingstone would resign in October unless he cut fares, were suicidal. The Mayoralty is not just about tube fares. Why should anyone vote for a candidate who promises to resign on a single issue a single commitment which the majority of the electorate don't think is deliverable anyway?

Livingstone's campaign also mentioned more police I found Vote Labour for More Police a difficult slogan especially as more police does not necessarily mean less crime) and bringing back the Education Maintenance Allowance how was that going to be funded? At the manifesto conference, Ken promised to make housing a big campaigning issue but the issue only hit the headlines when Mayor Robin Wales of Newham started asking northern authorities to house his homeless families which rebounded as much on Labour as it did on the Government.

Livingstone had a distinct housing policy from Johnson, in supporting councils building rented homes, but this was hardly mentioned until the last week of the campaign instead he focused on setting up a new lettings agency for private landlords useful perhaps but not the answer to London's acute housing shortage and the Coalition's attack on council housing and council tenants.

As someone who contributed to a comprehensive housing manifesto for Ken last November, this was a tragic lost opportunity. We could and should have won the Mayoral election. The reason we did not was not because of media coverage, but because Ken's carelessness antagonised many of his core voters; plus the campaign team's decision to run a single issue campaign was misconceived. They have betrayed Londoners.

In his losing speech at midnight in City Hall, he apologised to Londoners and so he should. To lose the London Mayoralty when there was such a swing against a Government who have seriously messed up was a crime and a massive fillip to Cameron and the Tory leadership when everything else was going wrong for them. The London Labour party and the national Labour party must get its act together.

We need both a clear alternative to the Tories and the courage to argue for it.