Which side are you on, boys?

The Daily Telegraph supporting Boris Johnson? Surely not!

For many, Andrew Gilligan’s promotion to the paper came as a relief. No longer would his hysterical opinions be broadcast to the capital’s retreating commuters as a point of course.

But when self-proclaimed Labour supporters take to its pages to shaft their own party less than a month before a crucial election, we can no longer be passive.

Lynton Crosby, the hard-right Tory campaign director, emailed the Tory members this weekend.

In an attempt to string out the mayoral tax row, Crosby invokes a number of sources, including the Telegraph, Lib Dem Brian Paddick and The Times. No surprises there. But Crosby also lists apparently ‘Labour’ commentators. “This isn’t just my view,” he writes. “See what others, including Labour activists, are now saying about Ken Livingstone’s hypocrisy.”

The Labour members he lists are Atul Hatwal, Jonathan Roberts, and Dan Hodges (who is quoted supporting Andrew Gilligan, who, like Hodges and Boris Johnson, is paid by the Telegraph).

It is time to call this what it is: Labour members undermining the Labour campaign for the mayor of London by doing and saying things the Tories want them to do.

They are acting as agents of the Tories’ line and the Tories’ strategy by throwing hand-grenades around our own trenches, rather than targeting the opposition.

Describing these figures as Labour activists is a insult to the hard work of the thousands of volunteers who have brought bread and butter issues such as transport fares up the agenda. And I’ll sort out a VIP ticket to my ward’s next canvassing session for any proven sighting of Dan Hodges on the doorstep.

None of these people have shown any interest in Labour winning this election. When the polls have shown the election to be on a knife-edge, they stay eerily silent. And then we see them pile in behind a newly negative and unpleasant Tory campaign. Self-describing tribalists like Hodges know too that when you’re close to an election, you can only pick your side. They have picked theirs: that of the Tory mayor.

Whilst Labour and its members are piling everything into this campaign, some people prefer to indulge themselves and their egos.

We only have to read the introduction of Crosby’s email to see the Tories’ vulnerability in this election. He is worried that his main election argument has gone into a tailspin. “Today, the national media are focusing on what disclosure means for the future direction of British politics and others are saying that it is a sideshow – just politicians spatting,” he says, adding that “These claims may serve Ken Livingstone’s purpose…”

He should be worried – his strategy has veered off into a different debate: whether total disclosure is healthy for British public life. He and Johnson have poisoned the well. Many commentators are urging for the debate to move on.

Even Tory ex-minister John Redwood now says the tax debate is “crowding out the more important matters of what Ken or Boris would do to the Council Tax, the policing, and the transport of London,” he argues.

Johnson’s campaign is trying to divert Londoners’ attention from understanding that they will be £1,000 or more better off with Labour’s Ken Livingstone, through the reduction of fares and other key pledges – or, put another way, they will be £1,000 or more worse off with Johnson and the Conservatives.

If we can get this message out, then Ken will win. In a cynical attempt to deceive the electorate, the Tories have made a song and dance distraction.

Crosby’s strategy can be taken down. Real Labour activists will be doing just this in the coming weeks. Those few Labour members who continue to snipe must accept that they are simply the Tories’ useful idiots.

* On Tuesday, hundreds of Labour activists will be campaigning for Ken’s fares cut. Show the Tories whose side you’re on and sign up here: http://www.kenlivingstone.com/faredealtuesday

By Conrad Landin

Ken urges focus on Londoners concerns – and issues a challenge

After last night’s BBC Newsnight London Mayoral election debate, Ken Livingstone has urged the Tory candidate Boris Johnson to debate the real issues that matter to Londoners.

But he has also issued him a challenge that will put to bed the Tory sniping about tax.

Ken said:

“What Londoners need to know in this election is whose policies will make them better off. I will cut the fares to save London fare payers £1,000 and under my pledges all London households can save huge sums on other items like cutting electricity bills or restoring Education Maintenance Allowance. London fare payers alone will lose £1,000 on Boris Johnson’s policies.

‘It is because they are desperate for the election not to centre on the real issues that deeply affect Londoners’ living standards that the Conservative candidate and his leading media-backers have raised issues about my income and tax and that of my wife.

‘I will lodge the details for the last four years with an independent body or individual, to be published simultaneously when all four main candidates have provided them. I will set out income to my company over the last four years, how much my wife and I received and how much tax was paid. Full household income and tax must be released by all candidates because the question of the overall household income and tax has continuously been the subject. This fully meets the terms agreed on Newsnight.

“The Conservative campaign will continue to seek to divert attention from the issues which affect Londoners simply because they want to try to prevent Londoners realising they will be hundreds of pounds a year better off under my policies and hundreds of pounds worse off under Boris Johnson.”

Tory Mayor doesn’t like scrutiny at LBC debate

After this morning’s LBC radio debate between Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson, Brian Paddick and Jenny Jones, the Ken Livingstone campaign put out the following statement:

“Ken Livingstone won this debate – by talking about things that really matter to people like living standards and the need to cut fares and addressing the reality of life for millions of Londoners.

By contrast the incumbent Conservative Boris Johnson was obsessed with arguments from the last election, raking over old stories now well by their sell-by date and going on about cable cars and other projects of no interest to the majority.

As an incumbent who has built a brand based on being upbeat, his campaign’s relentless negatives on Ken Livingstone are damaging to the carefully constructed Boris Johnson image.

Unlike four years ago the Tory candidate is now subject to real scrutiny by the other candidates – and his touchy reactions indicate that as an establishment figure he is not used to it.”
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