Labour’s team thought they had the super-rich Mayor Boris Johnson over a barrel on his tax affairs but it seems as if the whole thing has backfired, damaging their own candidate.
For some time now the rumbling row over who pays how much taxes has threatened to overwhelm the actual issues that Londoners will be voting on in May. It all came to a head this week when the candidates were involved in an angry off-air lift shouting match after an on-air row on LBC radio.
On Wednesday night’s Newsnight Jenny Jones proposed that all the Mayoral candidates publish their tax returns to draw a line under the whole tedious affair and get back to discussing something important. The candidates agreed on air but Livingstone appeared to backtrack the morning, after attempting to set conditions for publication, meanwhile the other candidates just cracked on and did it, leaving Labour’s candidate looking decidedly shifty.
Labour commentators seem divided on the issue with some leaping to Livingstone’s defense and others shaking their heads in horror. It’s given an electorate already jaded by rows about Ken all the more reason to lose enthusiasm for the ex-Mayor.
As Adam Bienkov argues in the Guardian today “A Tory mayor reducing his own tax bill by £16,000 while cutting everyone else’s tax by just £3 would have been a powerful line of attack for a Labour candidate – especially as Boris continues to raise fares well above inflation. Unfortunately for Ken, he now has little hope of successfully making this attack.”
Getting back to London’s issues
If all the two big beasts have to offer the electorate is fear of their opponent and a continual series of grumpy exchanges about the other man some will seek solace elsewhere and more still still will simply not make the effort to turn up and vote. The whole episode highlights how much of a turn-off the Ken and Boris show has become and raises the potential of the lowest turnout ever in a London election.
Without wishing to be brutal about the whole thing London is better off with a tax avoider who has the right policies for London than someone who has more personal integrity but whose policies are damaging to our health and happiness, but it’s hardly a rallying cry is it?
As a reminder there are more than two options for London Mayor for whom you can cast one or both of your Mayoral votes. Check them out, in alphabetical order, Siobhan Benita, Jenny Jones, Brian Paddick, Lawrence Webb