Well, it will end on Thursday I suppose, but it feels never ending. However, it’s not that long ago that Ken Livingstone was making an appeal to keep the election out of the gutter. As it becomes clearer that no one is particularly enthusiastic about Labour’s candidate the campaign is leaning more and more on the line that we should be voting against Johnson which conveniently means voting for their bloke.
To remind ourselves Livingstone’s team issued a letter four weeks ago appealing to raise the tone of the election. When they realised that every blow that fell seemed to be on top of their man’s head it seemed wise to try to call a truce.
Labour’s pledge for a positive campaign
The letter said that “There is a potential that the election debate becomes a disservice to Londoners… Those of us who are leading candidates in this election have a duty to the electorate to rein it in and direct it to the issues at stake for Londoners.
“We must take account of Londoners – the people we are trying to talk to. We need to afford them the respect to have a decent discussion about how we address their concerns, their quality of life, the squeeze on their living standards, the future direction of their neighbourhoods and home city. I suggest to Boris Johnson therefore that he and I work together to raise the tone and spirit of this election. Let us talk about what really matters to each and every Londoner, and end the X-Factor slug-fest…
“I will seek to ensure that my contributions reflect the real priorities of Londoners. All candidates should close their attack websites to concentrate on the positive issues for Londoners.”
Yet on Monday Labour launched their final pitch to voters. That Boris Johnson is an alien.
Where’s the vision?
The posters read in large letters “The Tories are on another planet” above pictures of the Mayor, Chancellor and Prime Minister as blue aliens. Then in much smaller lettering that most people will miss it says “Recession, fare raises, police cuts. Don’t let them get away with it. Vote Labour”.
There is no qualitative difference between this campaign and the “chicken feed” attack site that Labour took down when pledging to run a more positive campaign. Nor is it any different to the infamous New Labour, New Danger poster that so misjudged the mood back in 1997.
Labour’s campaign has consistently focused on Boris Johnson the man. Portraying him as a cartoonish character, and consistently deriding him as a person, often distracting from any political content to what they might have been saying at the time. While Labour certainly has a political program they have chosen to pitch it to the electorate with an ever present peevish negativity that assumes everyone shares the views of Labour Party staffers.
This is a campaign that cannot possibly hope to persuade those inclined to vote Tory to change their minds.
What’s frustrating about Labour’s attacks on the Mayor’s personality are that they are like water off a duck’s back. More people like Johnson than they do Livingstone, more people trust him and more people are going to vote for him. Where Johnson has been weak is on his flimsy list of achievements and dangerous inaction on issues like dangerous junctions and air pollution.
People die because of the Conservative polices for London and when these issues are raised they hit the mark. When the Mayor is attacked for being a character it simply reinforces how ideologically dead their opponents are, yet Labour are either unwilling, or unable to keep the attack focused on the Conservative’s policies or, God forbid, lead with an inspiring vision of their own.
When the political level is too low for even GQ magazine, you know there’s a problem. Never mind, the least inspiring election in the history of the London Assembly will be over on Thursday.