Most of the major candidates in the London poll may be the same as 2008, but this election has been different in a few ways this time around. The most striking difference is that specific environmental issues such as cycling and air pollution have risen spectacularly up the political agenda, gaining the kind of traction you rarely see for “green” issues, particularly during dip two of a recession.
With their growing, engaged audience, environmental and transport organisations may well be more influential in this election than they ever have been, and those who’ve expressed a preference have come out in favor of… the Green Party, who they judge to be the greenest.
Can you believe it?
It’s hardly surprising because if the Greens have a core constituency this is it, although it’s interesting to see unaffiliated groups take a firmer stance on how to vote in elections. This will be due to articles like this by Green Mayoral candidate Jenny Jones at Speakers Chair on air pollution – an issue the party has been banging on about for some time.
What do they say?
The Ecologist points out that the Green manifesto is ranking highest among environmental pressure groups and campaign groups, despite all the parties understanding that they need to pull their socks up when it comes to the environment.
Friends of the Earth published a report jointly with Greenpeace which says “Jenny Jones is continuing to drive the ideas and impetus behind environmental action in London’s governance. Radical proposals such as Londonwide road user charging reflect the scale of action needed to make London’s air safe to breathe, to meet climate targets, helping to cut fares and deliver the shift to walking, cycling and public transport needed to cut traffic levels and keep the capital moving. She consistently ranks first or second throughout all of our categories of analysis.”
John Vidal sums up the report in the Guardian if you’ve no time to read the whole thing.
The heavyweight Clean Air London asks people to use their first vote for Jenny Jones or Brian Paddick on air quality, and then Ken Livingstone as a second preference.
Londoners on Bikes has declared its support for a Green then Labour vote, much to the delight of Caroline Allen, because the party has been at the forefront of campaigning for cycle safety and investment in infrastructure in the Assembly as well as being active in the cycling community.
The London Cycling Campaign has been bending over backwards to be nice to the big two contenders, even praising Johnson as a late convert to their Go Dutch campaign, before admitting that Jenny Jones was the only candidate who “gave her full commitment to the ‘Go Dutch’ campaign at the launch in February.”
It seems that in this electoral cycle campaigners have been pedalling a bespoke line to saddle us with more Green dynamos. Sorry.
The only exception to this uniformity has been Sustrans, who say of Jones that “her short manifesto lacks detail on how she’d achieve her vision”, while praising three other candidates as admirable, pioneering or putting the Mayor to shame. Considering the Green Manifesto is pretty much the same length of everyone else’s and consists of a stream of bullet points of policy detail, it tends to imply Sustrans hadn’t read it or came to it with their minds set against the Greens, which is a shame but certainly their choice.
Sustrans policy researcher, Eleanor Besley, who writes for the Liberal Democrat in-house blog site said “the Lib Dem manifesto is closest to our own” adding Paddick’s “tube fare cut ambition is ambitious”. There’s nothing I like more than an ambitious ambition although I’m fairly sure it’s Ken Livingstone who tops the biggest pledge to cut fares stakes.
It’s difficult to know quite what to make of Sustrans’ position on this when they seem predisposed against the Greens and don’t appear to have read their manifesto whilst being beyond ecstatic when talking about Brian Paddick saying “Brian Paddick shows how the Lib Dems understand the link between transport and quality of life. He puts Boris to shame with a commitment to new river crossings in East London that prioritise public transport, bikes and pedestrians over vehicles.”
Wow – quite a write up, but no matter how over-egged it certainly is true that the Liberal Democrats do have some good ideas and are sincere about implementing environmental measures.
The big divide
Most campaigners in the field see the big divide as between the Conservative Mayor and everyone else rather than any single candidate standing head and shoulders above the rest. However, if the Greens can’t win this particular fight then they really are in trouble – so this is one test the Party has passed with flying colours.
We should state that the Tories have been planting loads of trees and are good on green spaces, the Lib Dem transport policies have some inventive ideas on helping us get around more affordably, Siobhan Benita is majoring on getting public transport to run later, particularly to outer London, and Labour are taking issues like air quality more seriously.
All serious parties in this election understand that environmental issues cannot be ignored but, in fairness, only one party thinks they are so central they actually named their party after them.