Last night City of London Corporation hosted on behalf of Editorial Intelligence a brilliant debate on the ‘Mayoral Commentariat’.
The two main runners ‘Boris’ and ‘Ken’
The panel was chaired by Tony Halmos from the City of London Corporation and the panel was made up of Pippa Crerar the City Hall Editor for the Evening Standard, Peter Kellner from YouGov and Steve Richards the chief political commentator for The Independent and Tony Travers from LSE London.
The event held in the Art Gallery at the Guildhall was a stunning setting, and the event got off to a great start with delicious canapés and a nice glass of wine which was just what the doctor ordered as they say!
I had invited two colleagues, Ali Griffiths and Sandra Levinson along with me who have been actively working on the ‘Back Boris’ campaign and both found the debate fascinating and so I may well have recruited a few more allies for future events.
So, onto the debate and what I have taken away from it, after embarrassing myself by asking the Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP to moving as I high jacked three seats on the front row.
One of the key questions put to the panel but I am not sure if it was answered or, maybe it will only be known after the elections on Thursday 3rd May ~ ‘Will 2012 be more like the mayoral elections of 2004 resulting in a buck in the trend?’
First to speak was Tony Travers, and the main point he made was that this mayoral election had been about ‘personalities’ rather than policy. He also made a very valid observation that Boris is a traditional conservative whereas Ken is old Labour with a mix of Thatcherism!
Second to speak was Pippa Crerar, and she reiterated that this campaign was driven by two personalities, known by their Christian names throughout the UK and further a field. And, she also pointed out that whereas Londoners were aware of the election the actual numbers who come out and vote could be low, last time it was only 45% of the voters. I know personally that this is one of the key reasons that Ali and I have been targeting for the ‘Back Boris’ Campaign our wards, Queensgate and Courtfield to ensure we get the footfall out.
Third to speak was Peter Kellner, and he pointed out a fact that I wasn’t aware of, which was that London has more Labour voters and that if the Mayoral election was party driven that Labour would pip to the post. He also pointed out that within the London Assembly that out of the 25 seats he saw Labour with a majority.
Last to speak was Steve Richards, and he spoke about the candidates and what they do for the political parties and pointed out that politics is a battle. He also highlighted that as candidates with a presence when talking that Ken may have the edge as he had stood up to the government with the introduction of the Congestion charge. On a personal note, I agreed with the congestion charge when it covered where I live, as the roads were definitely more manageable. Now, fortunately I drive an eco car so, I am exempt for congestion charge.
It was then open to the floor and some great questions were put forward;
- from asking about the TV broadcasters methods to live debates and whether they were effective,
- to what will Siobhan Benita do after this,
- to will Boris if elected complete his term,
- to saying that candidates are independent of the parties (yeah right),
- to why don’t the candidates address the economy in London,
- to what are the mayoral candidates strategies for a repeat of last summers riots,
- to what do candidates want out of standing in the campaign,
- to asking what difference has having a major in London made.
So, some really interesting questions were put to the panel.
And, the feedback concluded that;
- the powers of the major’s role will continue to grow,
- to an example of what the Major has achieved with transforming public transport. However, personally, I think that the Olympics will be a big test on this.
- The question of how do people get selected to stand to be major. And, I was forwarded a great article that appeared in the New York Times about Siobhan Benita and this made sense. http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/25/london-politics-for-500-who-is-siobhan-benita/?utm_source=Countdown+7&utm_campaign=Countdown+7&utm_medium=email read it for yourself. She had no backing or experience having given up her job to try for Mayor, I believe that it will not be the last time we read her name on a ballot paper.
- The question of would Boris do his full term as Major if another opening in Parliament became available was interesting, and having worked with Boris when he was MP in Henley, I know that he is 100% dedicated to a purpose so, watch this space.
All in all, it was a great evening and put me in high spirits to return to campaigning for the last 7 days till the election.
It also had a special meaning attending that debate last night, as I had attended the funeral of Maggie Pullen MBE earlier in the day and, it was her who encouraged me to be involved with politics and I have never looked back as she was a real activist in the Conservative Party.