Enough of the Ken and Jeff Show
Trevor Phillips sets out his stall.
The accepted view of the last fifteen years of Labour's history
is that it has been a disaster for the reforming radical left.
What began as a tactical accommodation with the electorate
under Neil Kinnock has ended in the wholesale destruction
of our party's socialist heritage and beliefs under Tony Blair.
This view is equally popular amongst the ideologues of the
right wing press, desperate for reassurance that they do not
need to fear a government of the left, and the Leninist-influenced
hard left inside and outside Labour, who hate the idea of
a successful reforming Labour government.
But it is wrong. The government is a good thing! Unlike the
Labour governments elected in 1964 or 1974 it did not 'win
power' on a particularly left wing manifesto. But that should
not blind us to the scale of its assault on the bastions of
the Thatcher-state. Debate about tax reform has been transformed
from one about how we 'reward' the already wealthy to how
we help the working poor. The unitary state has been broken
up with devolution to Scotland, Wales and soon London. There
has even been a concerted attempt to incorporate Irish republicanism
into the democratic process. Local government is being - albeit
slowly - given new life and responsibility.
Of course there are things that many of us dislike or even
detest: I have made no secret of my views on matters such
as the Asylum Bill and the ill-thought out plans for London
Underground. But these are not enough to make me want to wreck
the government, damage the party's reputation or try to humiliate
the Prime Minister. They are reasons why the dialogue between
the government, party members and Labour voters needs to be
strengthened, not why we should have a trial separation.
In London we have a unique chance to give our verdict on
the party's direction. At least one candidate for the party
nomination is running on a platform of uncritical support
for everything the government has done, is doing and will
do. Another might offer hope to the sectarians that their
predictions of failure for Labour may at last be coming true.
And then there's me.
Politically I want to strengthen the hands of the reformers
inside the Party and the government. I want to press home
the message that modernisation does not just mean Labour can
cut taxes too, but that politics needs to be inclusive and
that there is no choice but to challenge the big vested corporate
interests on transport, health, planning and the environment.
It has taken a long time for many commentators to get over
the shock caused by the colour of my skin but I hope that
- finally - the message is breaking through about the nature
of the choice inside the party. I am not a cipher for Tony
Blair and nor am I just a handy way of adding depth to someone
else's platform by incorporating me as deputy.
Of course it suits some people to argue that I am nothing
more than a patsy for Downing Street while others say I am
not reliable as a carrier of the leadership's torch. Reportedly
the political officer of one of the bigger unions has ordered
his young cadres to spy on my campaign because of my dangerously
And it is the hard right who have been given new life by
the withdrawal of too many of the party's leading reformers
into the government machine. Always on hand to offer a quick-fix
solution, the right have never even pretended to sympathise
within those entering the party with feminist, green or other
radical perspectives. Seemingly unable to fix up this contest
through the wielding of the block vote, they have spent the
last year trying to find a Cabinet Minister - any Cabinet
Minister - willing to do their bidding and stand. Now it seems
that an ex-junior minister is going to have to do.
In the meantime I have been here steadily advocating my own
political agenda. This is one that most readers of Chartist
ought to be in sympathy with: the benefits of London's
prosperity should be spread throughout the city, the huge
crescent of deprivation running from North West to South East
London should be tackled, we should take radical action against
over use of the car, we should radically modernise our police
to end the era of PC Plod, we should look for radical ways
of rebuilding our public transport system within the public
I want the new authority to take the environment seriously
- something that the government seems reluctant to do - and
that means being tough on traffic congestion and tough on
the causes of congestion by returning large parts of central
London to people through pedestrianisation. I simply do not
believe that road charges would be enough to do the job on
their own - unless they were set at such a high level that
the Mayor would be guilty of leaving the roads the property
of the rich.
I grew up in a household without a telephone. Not being able
to phone a friend was not just a badge of poverty, or a cause
of great teenage frustration: it was a barrier to full membership
of society. So too will be an inability to access the virtual
world of the internet in only a few years. But I want London
to be the first city in the world to banish e-poverty by guaranteeing
access for all. And, predictably, you'll have to look at my
web site (http://www.trevorphillips.org)
if you want to know more!
Even now the politics of this election seems to have a back
seat to the trivia and the personalities. I know I have had
enough of the Ken and Jeff show - if you have too, then you
are more than welcome on board.
Ken Livingstone on London as an international city
Electing a Labour mayor for London is going to be an exhilarating
experience for the Party in the capital. The abolition of the
GLC left not only London citizens but London Labour members
without a strategic body to organise around, lobby and argue
with. The quangoisation of London government meant that the
Party has had no one regional focus for its activities in London
and the debate about the capital is now being reinvigorated
by the prospect that this time next year, Labour could be running
I have spoken at length about policies for London and over
the next few months the policy debate will be key. But as
a party of democratic socialism we also have a duty to place
our actions in a international context. Here I want to deal
with where this new system of government will fit into wider
global concerns at the start of the new century.
One of the major problems facing Tony Blair's government
is that for twelve years London has been the only capital
city in Europe without a democratically elected government.
Behind closed doors unelected quangos have mismanaged the
city. The appalling levels of congestion on our streets mean
that travelling times have declined to levels not seen since
the turn of the century. The resulting pollution hangs over
London on an almost permanent basis. Homelessness and huge
swathes of inner city poverty now disfigure a city which at
its centre holds the wealthiest square mile and greatest wealth
generator anywhere in Europe.
A directly elected mayor will be a post of such high public
visibility that the mayor will inevitably lead the debate
about the modernisation and development of the city. To be
successful this individual will first have to analyse what
it is that creates great cities. History is filled with cities
that rose and flourished briefly, attached to one great industrial
advance and then faced decline.
Great cities stay great if they can stay at the cutting
edge of either culture or economic innovation. Many of the
greatest cities are those which have a strong cultural and
artistic base as well as economic dynamism. Berlin is remembered
for its artistic achievements between the wars yet its other
great contribution to human advance was the creation of modern
industries based on electricity, led by economic giants Siemens
and AEG. Similarly although we automatically think of London
as the pre-eminent city of financial capital, and have seen
this powerfully reasserted during the Thatcher years, in truth
London's greatest contribution to humanity is the flowering
of literature, theatre and poetry during the Shakespearean
Imperial Rome was the first city in human history to achieve
a population of one million. It was not until 1810 that London
broke through that record reaching two and half million population
by 1851, and eight million after World War One. Now across
the third world new mega-cities see people living in conditions
of poverty as bad as anything that existed in London in the
Some time during this year the human population will surpass
six billion and if we are lucky it will stabilise at about
nine billion by the middle of the next century. The vast majority
of people will live in great cities. If London with all its
wealth cannot show how to provide a decent quality of life
for all its citizens then what hope can there be for the inhabitants
of Calcutta or Mexico City? The innovations that must come
from the new government of London could become a catalyst
which can feed into policy-making in cities around the world.
The great struggles of 19th Century reformers to create
a city worth living in did not really reach fruition until
the years after 1945. Having completed the Victorian legacy
of reform London ceased to be at the leading edge of innovation
and change. The post-war Labour government created a system
of city planning which became a model for the rest of the
world but by the 1970s it had grown into a bureaucratic monster
unresponsive to the rapid pace of change.
The mayor and assembly for London must preside over a much
more responsive planning system which allows both public and
private sectors to move rapidly into new fields of technological
advance. The only gainers from the current lengthy delays
in planning policy are our highly paid lawyers. The heart
of a great world city requires ground breaking and innovative
architecture as much as it requires innovation in its economy.
We must also harness the strong green sentiment in London
- demonstrated by the election of a Green MEP this year -
to synthesise environmental opinion with technological innovation.
In Cities in Civilisation Sir Peter Hall analyses the rise
of successful cities. His work finds many common themes as
he examines the periods of urban innovation from ancient Athens
to Los Angeles. Much of the new thinking in art or commerce
came from migrants attracted to find their fortune in the
city, whether this was the artists drawn to mediaeval Florence
or the computer 'nerds' who flocked to California's Bay Area.
It is this influx of innovative and usually younger minds
that can achieve a critical mass in a city of sufficient size.
After decades of stagnation in the thinking of London's city
managers and the closing down of the Greater London Council,
London is now ripe for a period of major reform and innovation.
Information technology and cultural activity in the city
is once again at the leading edge of change. All the classic
signs identified by Hall are in place for what he calls a
new golden age of the city. The new mayor for London must
exploit this dynamism. At all costs we must avoid going back
to the days of long drawn out planning processes which stifle
innovation and lead to an exodus of the best and brightest.
Early in the 1980s the Greater London Council proposed that
Britain should take the lead in being the first nation to
establish a fibre optic network linking all homes, businesses
and educational establishments. Sadly the Thatcher government
ignored this advice. Given the size of the information technology
sector in the London economy it is still possible for London
to be a leading player in the IT revolution.
It is important not to make the mistake of seeing the new
Mayor and Assembly as simply city administrators. London is
a region on the scale of a major German Land. There is no
doubt that if the new authority is a success it will form
the basis of a major devolution of power from Whitehall to
the English regions in Tony Blair's second term, thus moving
Britain towards the modern European pattern of devolved regional
government. That is a challenge worth rising to.