I've decided to write to you today to remind you that Wednesday 16th April is your last chance to register to vote in the forthcoming London elections to be held on 1st May. I also want to encourage you to vote for Ken Livingstone for Mayor of London. Some of you may already be thinking "politics = boring-bald-white-men-with-expensive-kitchens" (incidentally, a good description of the people who swore at me as I was out leafleting yesterday), but democracy could be just the worthwhile distraction you need if like me you're preparing for exams! My apologies to those of you reading this who have already made up your minds.
Anyone who lives in London, is over 18 and is a British, EU or Commonwealth citizen can vote. If you weren't put on the electoral register when you moved into your current living space then you'll need to register. To do this click here: London Elects or call 0800 876 6444. If you can't be bothered or have decided that you hate all the candidates then please just vote to stop the racist British National Party getting the 5% they need to gain a London Assembly seat and the funds that go with it (they polled 4.9% last time, and just imagine how many Mein Kampfs Nick Griffin could buy with £50,000pa).
Aside from his latest policies, I think the main reason I'll be backing Ken Livingstone is his foresight: he's consistently proven himself to be ahead of his time in making the case for a number of issues that people in the past considered to be fringe or 'looney', but are now in the political mainstream. Since before the 1980s he's been a tireless campaigner for racial and sexual equality, against Apartheid and the far-right. More recently, he opposed the Iraq war; the London Congestion Charge has proven that politicians do have the power to change travel behaviour; and Ken's inclusive approach to community relations has shown that multiculturalism can succeed (racist attacks in London are down more than 50% since 2000). Ken continues to take a stand on the environment, the London Living Wage and subsidised travel for the poorest Londoners, and his achievements have been recognised internationally.
I won't recite the successes of the past eight years; you can read them here.
Ken's 2008 policies include: overseeing the massive investment in London's transport that is taking place including the £10bn Crossrail project; maintaining the London-wide Low Emissions Zone and introducing a £25 daily charge for gas-guzzlers entering central London (Porsche are suing over this!); maintaining the policy that 50% of all new housing should be affordable; making the freedom pass for elderly and disabled Londoners valid 24-hours a day; 1,000 more police; extending the student travel discount to one-day travelcards; maintaining free travel for under-18s on the buses and a £78m programme to set up youth centres.
Ken is not perfect but he does understand the need to keep a balance between principle and political practicalities rather better than most mainstream politicians, who seem to have decided that politics is about playing on prejudice and appealing to narrow self-interest in 'middle England' rather than persuading people to support a clear and principled political narrative. I know that many of you will find it hard to vote for Labour after Iraq and other issues, but Ken has had the courage to depart from the government over things such as the war, Trident replacement and the anti-immigrant rhetoric, and I think the few politicians in power who go against the grain like that deserve our backing.
Boris Johnson, the only other candidate with a chance of winning the mayoral election, publicly opposes the Kyoto Protocol, derides the Congestion Charge and other measures to reduce car use and protect the environment, and has made some pretty unfunny remarks about black people. Behind the buffoonery and TV appearances, Boris is just very right wing: see here for a good report on this.
I encourage you to watch the Party Election Broadcasts (more revealing about the relative attitudes of the candidates than you'd normally expect from such propaganda:
Boris Johnson: http://www.backboris.com/video/08_04_08_peb.php
Brian Paddick: http://www.brianpaddick.org/brian-paddick-tv-broadcast-477
Ken Livingstone: http://www.kenlivingstone.com/page/invite/broadcast
Or you can watch them all and find out more on the BBC here.
"You know, whenever George Dubya Bush appears on television, with his buzzard squint and his Ronald Reagan sidenod, I find a cheer rising irresistibly in my throat. Yo, Bush baby, I find myself saying, squashing my beer can like some crazed redneck: you tell 'em boy. Just you tell all those pointy-headed liberals where to get off." (Boris Johnson, Lend Me Your Ears p317)
I think I agree with Charlie Brooker: "I wouldn't trust Boris to operate a mop, let alone a £10bn Crossrail project." (Guardian, 14 April)
Compass Youth Activist