KEN LIVINGSTONE has gone on the offensive after a series of setbacks to his campaign to be re-elected as London Mayor on 1 May.
First up, Livingstone said he will recruit 1,000 new police officers as part of the budget he presented to the London Assembly yesterday.
“The results of more police on the beat on local streets are there for all to see,” Livingstone said by way of complimenting himself on beefing up Met numbers by 10,000 to 35,000 since first taking control of City Hall in 2000.
While overall crime levels have fallen since 2000, headline-grabbing horrors such as the recent spate of young people killed by guns have given Tory Boris Johnson – Livingstone’s main rival for the Mayor job – plenty of scope to go on the attack.
Tories in the Assembly proposed a rival budget that offered 1,500 extra police officers and Johnson announced plans to have police stations adopt more flexible opening hours, “building bridges” between the Met and local communities, as he put it.
Livingstone is perhaps most famous as the man who introduced the Congestion Charge and he returned to the issue today for his second policy plank, promising to bring in a UKP25 fee “for the most CO2-emitting vehicles.” The normal charge stands at UKP8.
By ratcheting up the Congestion Charge in this way, he hopes to paint his opponent as an anti-environmentalist. “[Johnson] is one of the few politicians who supported George W Bush in opposing the Kyoto treaty,” Livingstone added.
Meanwhile, Johnson’s camp are likely to continue to make hay with the on-going investigations into accusations of corruption and sleaze in Livingstone’s office, which have already claimed the scalp of Rosemary Emodi for lying about accepting a free holiday.
A poll taken by YouGov/ITV this week had Livingstone on 44 percent, Johnson on 40 and Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick on 8.