Peter Hoskin

Walls closing in on Ken?

Walls closing in on Ken?
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The London mayoral race is entering a bitter period, with most of the invective being directed at Ken Livingstone.  Of course, we shouldn’t be too surprised when the Evening Standard, which has had its run-ins with Livingstone, produces headlines such as "Mayor 'misled public over cash'".  But – surprising or not – these headlines will still spoil Livingstone’s reputation with the voting public, and have already lead to condemnation from MPs of all three parties.

More telling, though, is the fact that outlets such as the Guardian and New Statesman are adding their weight to the assault.  The Guardian’s criticism may be heavily mitigated but it exists nonetheless, with Dave Hill writing on Livingtone’s "ratty and gnarled" public image.  And in today’s New Statesman, Martin Bright – who has just completed a television documentary on Livingstone – gives a much more damaging assessment.  Bright claims that Livingstone’s “behaviour is symptomatic of a man who has grown too comfortable with power,” and that “many of the people … spoke[n] to had previously been supporters of the Mayor, but are now unhappy with the way things have turned out”.

However, Bright’s article is less important for its attacks on Livingstone, than it is for his analysis of the mayoral role itself.  He suggests the institution of mayor – one in which “all executive power devolved from national government resides in the person who holds the post of mayor” – may itself lie behind many of the problems.  If so, whoever wins in May will have a great deal of house-clearing to do.