Tag Archives: brian-paddick

Oh dear, Livingstone is lost in his own mythologising

Ken Livingstone won the London Mayoral election last week. Well, okay, he doesn’t actually claim that in his Guardian article yesterday, but he comes pretty close:

Nationally Labour’s vote fell by 2% compared to 2004, but in London the percentage of first preference votes I received in the mayoral election went up very fractionally. The increase in the absolute number of votes was striking – up by 220,000, or 30%. There was no Labour “stay at home” factor in London. Four years ago I polled 10.8% ahead of Labour nationally – a week ago this increased to 13%. I received slightly more second preference votes than Boris Johnson. On the London assembly Labour made one net gain.

All of which points to a phenomenally high profile election in which the national and London media helped put out a squeeze message on a daily basis. There are plenty of Labour held seats across the country where they bucked the national trend for the same simple reason: it was clear to the electorate that it was a choice between two candidates.

If the acme of Labour’s ambitions is to come a very good second place in the next general election, they should listen to Livingstone. Otherwise, I suggest they look further afield.

His comments on the Lib Dems are more interesting:

Lib Dem failure in London was massive. They chose to stay outside the progressive alliance of Labour and the Greens. As a result they failed even to reach double-figure support in the mayoral election, and their London assembly seats fell from five to three. Hopefully this suicidal orientation will be reversed in the next four years.

The scale of the Lib Dems’ failure is undeniable (well, undeniable for anyone apart from Mike Tuffrey who sent out an email last week claiming that “actually when the final tally is examined, I think we’ll find that in many areas the total number of people we persuaded to vote for us was up. But that success was masked by a much higher turnout, spurred on by the mayoral Punch and Judy show.” – if only those pesky voters didn’t turn up, we’d have won! No lessons being learned there I fear). I’m not convinced that Livingstone’s prescription for success would have had any effect however. The Lib Dems are a national party which can’t afford to behave like the Greens and avoid scrutiny in the same way. Sian Berry can get away with broadcasting the message “Vote Green, Get Brown“; Brian Paddick and Nick Clegg could not. If we had done so, we would have mortgaged all our potential successes in the local elections across the country, helping the Tories push the message that they were the only alternative to Labour.

There certainly is an argument that we concentrated too much on the Mayoral election and didn’t consider how we could consolidate our standing on the Assembly anything like enough. As a third party which is no longer the repository for protest votes it once was, we have a peculiar problem with the AMS system where people feel they can split their ticket by giving the Lib Dems a vote in the constituency and, say, the Greens a vote in the London-wide ballot and be helping us (solution: our London-wide message in future has to focus relentlessly on the list). But hitching ourselves to the Green-Brown love-in would have done us no good at all.

It might have got Mayor Ken re-elected so one can understand why he thinks it has such appeal, but however much I might have preferred him to be at City Hall right now rather than Bozza, performing the role of Mayoral figleaf has very little appeal for me. Perhaps if Livingstone had understood that, rather than adopt this Bush-style “you’re either with us or against us” approach, he might have been able to come up with a counter-stratagem.

My verdict on the Paddick campaign

My piece on Comment is Free this morning is rather less “sunshine and buttercups” than my effort yesterday:

Has the light at the end of the tunnel I was detecting yesterday turned out to be a freight train moving at speed in the wrong direction? Maybe not, but there is no disguising the fact that the London elections have been awful for the Liberal Democrats.

For the record, and not that I’m complaining about being censored, my original draft was considerably more sweary. Read the full article here.

Does your Mayoral candidate pass the 7/7 test?

Wondering which way to vote in May’s London Mayoral election? Allow me to suggest this simple test:

Pick a candidate and try and imagine what they would be like handling a crisis such as 7/7.

Actually, you don’t need to do that with Livingstone. Love him or hate him, he’s already done this:

Brian Paddick? Well, again, this isn’t a hypothetical as he was the Deputy Metropolitan Police Chief at the time:

Boris Johnson? Does the thought make you want to laugh or cry?

Harsh test though this may be, I think it’s a valid one.

Why has the Police Federation allowed the BNP to co-opt them? (UPDATE)

Hugh Muir reports:

And while we are continuing police inquiries, what do we know following their famous march on London? The event itself was peaceful; the least we could expect, but why was Richard Barnbrook, the BNP mayoral candidate for London and “visionary artist” allowed to take a prominent place at the front? Many forces ban their officers from membership of the BNP, as does the Association of Chief Police Officers. Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrat candidate and former deputy assistant commissioner at the Met, raised the issue with the organisers, who proceeded – in an orderly fashion – to do nothing. Yesterday BNPtv posted its lengthy footage of Barnbrook interviewing a federation official from Essex police. The disreputable in league with the disgruntled. Hard to know which is worse.

You can watch the film on YouTube. Barnbrook can clearly be seen at the front of the demonstration along with the police’s other high profile supporters (including Susan Kramer, although she seems to have put as much distance between him and her as possible) while the Secretary of the Essex Police Federation Roy Scane (and there is no way a policeman with such a role could possibly not know who Barnbrook is) happily gives Barnbrook an extended interview.

This is of course exactly the kind of tacit approval that the BNP crave. Is the Police Federation nuts?

It’s good to see Brian Paddick’s political radar in full working order however.

UPDATE: The Evening Standard has more on this. How about this for a pathetic/vaguely sinister excuse from the Police Federation:

“Some of my colleagues saw we had the BNP Mayoral candidate with us. The one thing we want to make clear is we didn’t invite him. It wasn’t a closed march. He chose to attend by his own accord which is his right in a democracy. It is disappointing if anyone chose to join the march for their own agenda.

“We didn’t ask him to leave because whether we like it or not we live in a democracy.”

In a democracy you certainly can refuse to allow an individual to lead a public demonstration from the front. You simply ask him to leave. I somehow doubt even the BNP would be uncooperative with a crowd of 22,000 coppers. And you are certainly not required to provide him with a friendly interview with one of your regional officials.

And what’s with this ambivalence about living in a democracy? Are they on a mission to lose public sympathy?

Beware Livingstone supporters claiming you have no choice

Ken Livingstone supporters moving into the clothes peg business. Remember Polly Toynbee’s exhortation in the run up to the general election that people should vote Labour not because they were any good but because the Tories were worse? Well, it seems that Livingstone supporters have started a similar tactic. Seumus Milne, acknowledging that there is “a strong left critique of Livingstone,” nonetheless insists that “the choice [between Livingstone and Johnson] could hardly be starker. No other candidate is in with a shout.” Meanwhile, a bunch of Labour MPs have written a letter to the Guardian demanding that “the real issues in the London mayoral election should be Ken Livingstone’s record after eight years in office” only to immediately add that “Boris Johnson would abolish the 50% affordable housing policy. He opposed the minimum wage, backed section 28 and has called for big cuts to London’s transport and policing budgets. The choice could not be clearer.”

The Labour practice of talking up the Tories in order to shut down debate (and vice versa) is a time honoured tradition, and one the Lib Dems in turn practice themselves all the time. Polly at least had a point; under first past the post voting against the party you hate is more relevant than voting for the party you like. But the Mayoral election will not be conducted under first past the post but the supplementary vote (SV) system.

SV is by no means perfect – unlike AV you still have to take tactical factors into consideration when casting your first preference. But it does broaden the range out to at least the top three. What then becomes important is which candidates enjoy the broadest consensus. Livingstone has always done well out of a broad coalition of lefties, liberals and greens – these are votes Johnson must attract to actually win. Can he? I’m doubtful, and I suspect he can only lose ground over the next couple of months. On this basis it is looking less and less likely that Johnson can win, even if he ends up in the top two.

By contrast, it is not beyond the realms of possibility at all that if Paddick could overtake him. He was very unlucky to have his candidature announced while the leadership election was getting under way which didn’t make for the best of starts. But his relaunch this month has been very successful and he has a broader appeal than the standard Lib Dem candidate.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the only two people who can win this race are not Livingstone and Johnson but Livingstone and Paddick. The fact that Livingstone supporters seek to present the shock haired loon as some kind of looming phantom menace suggests they fear this is true themselves.

Who I’m backing… for the Lib Dem Mayoral candidate

In all the excitement of the leadership contest, I’ve just realised that I never got around to endorsing anyone for the Lib Dem mayoral candidate.

Since the deadline for ballots has been extended, there are possibly 2, maybe even 3 votes out there that haven’t been cast yet, so here goes.

It’s a total no-brainer: it has to be Brian Paddick. The latest Metropolitan Police debacle says it all really. In that case Paddick showed excellent judgement under pressure – in stark contrast to his then boss – and was vindicated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s report earlier this year. He is the only candidate with actual experience of running a London-wide public authority and of the three has the best experience of London as a whole.

Chamali Fernando ran an excellent campaign and deeply impressed me. If the party doesn’t now groom her for a winnable or held Commons seat, it really has totally lost the plot. But while she would make a great candidate, I’m afraid to say I don’t have confidence in a relatively inexperienced twenty-something person running London. The next time she stands for something as well, a word of advice: don’t ever use the term “unspun” to sell yourself (which thinking about it is itself an oxymoron). It’s like “no problem” in that it alerts people to a concept that may hitherto not have been in their minds.

And you certainly should not use the phrase “unspun” in the contest of claiming to be “able to empower individuals, break routine and stampede formality”. I don’t happen to know what most of that phrase means, but I’m pretty sure it’s not entirely unrelated to spin.

Back to Paddick, if I do have a word of complaint, it is his campaign. It was lacklustre. Partly, I have heard on the grapevine, that is because of the phoney election that wasn’t and the subsequent leadership contest. But even a month ago I was disappointed by the website, which was uninspired, and his manifesto, which was concerned with making him look like a pro-forma Lib Dem candidate clone.

This isn’t how we should be selling him. His single strongest asset is his gravitas and trustworthiness. His main opponents are both clowns, particularly the shock haired freak the Tories are putting up against him. This is a real opportunity to carve out a distinctive agenda. That simply won’t happen if we treat this campaign like one big Parliamentary by-election.

Interestingly, it looks unlikely that his opponents will be able to make much of his most controversial act as a copper: downgrading the Brixton police’s handling of cannabis possession. This policy was of course a success and lead to a national policy change which has also now been shown to be a success, but all things being equal that won’t stop our opponents from trying to make hay with it (see Gordon Brown’s announcement to reverse the downgrading policy earlier in the summer).

But will Boris be able to make much of it given his jolly, libertarian image? And can you imagine cuddly Ken suddenly playing the cannabis card? They would both alienate large sections of their supporter base.

Bottom line: we have a candidate who inspires trust and has meaningful experience. That should be our key message, not nonsense about ensuring that buses don’t arrive at bus stops three in a row.

Extraordinary rant from Fiyaz Mughal

Fiyaz Mughal posted this extraordinary rant at 2.15am on Wednesday morning:

Come on! Don’t get taken in by ‘Big’ Names, Look at the Experience in Front of You

2.15.00am BST (GMT +0100) Wed 19th Sep 2007

Tomorrow is the first hustings of the mayoral candidacy for the Party and the past few days have shown me that British politics is being corroded by a desire to see ‘big names,’ rather than individuals who have experience and Party know how as basic skills. Ken and Boris need to be ‘matched’ in name value, yet I hear very little about having the skills and political capital to do so being part of the equation here at conference!

The strategy of the Party is to mark and carve out a niche that is different and anti-establishment. Enter into that strategy someone the Party believes fits into that role. The basic wisdom is that someone who knows the Party structures, the culture of it and the policies should through their experience, be the natural candidate. It is not only the storm clouds brewing in Brighton, I am afraid that the dark arts of supporting a candidate in subtle ways is taking place for the sake of the ‘anti-establishment’ figurehead.

Let’s hope that figurehead manages to traverse the many icebergs out there and there are many! The largest of this will be Ken, an ardent politico who has managed to develop 110 lives within his political career. “Icebergs ahead captain,” for I am steering a course that is true to the people of London and valid to the vast majority who want safety and security, better life chances and the ease to travel within the Capital.

I’ll leave to one side this stuff about icebergs (why is it that Lib Dems keep alluding to the Titanic at the moment? Is it because they’re looking forward to the Doctor Who Christmas Special? Yes, that’s the reason!). The Lib Dems should indeed choose a candidate with experience over and above a ‘name’ – that’s why, all things being equal, a former Deputy Metropolitan Police Commissioner would appear to have an advantage. And what’s this about the natural choice being someone “who knows the Party structures, the culture of it and the policies should through their experience”? That makes me the IDEAL candidate. It is normally a safe bet that if I’m the answer, you are asking the wrong question (unless the question is “who is blogger of the year?” of course. Hem hem).

What about someone with decades of experience working in London, across London, and in the service of London? Doesn’t that count for anything? Brian Paddick isn’t some career politician or dilettante who achieve celebrity status through appearing on Have I Got News For You? and thought he might give it a go. He’s someone with a serious level of credibility. Attacking him because his seniority in the police force granted him a certain level of fame is simply ridiculous.

This sort of petulant rant does nothing to help Mughal’s cause. In the past I’ve criticised the office of London Mayor on the basis that the lack of a London-wide demos leads parties to approach celebrity figures to be their candidate. Brian Paddick is one of just a handful of people in the city who manages to straddle both fame and authority. The fact that the party has attracted someone like Brian should be a cause of celebration. I’m sorry if that thwarts Mughal’s ambitions, but that’s life. If he was that serious he would surely have published a manifesto on his website at least before laying into the competition.

Get tough on the fear of crime

One of the things that most irritated me about the Orange Book a few years ago was David Laws hectoring the Lib Dems for not doing enough to acknowledge how the fear of crime affects people’s daily lives (I paraphrase as I don’t have the book in front of me right now). Boris Johnson made a similar comment during the launch for his bid for London Mayor today and last week the Observer wrote:

The state cannot order civil society back into being, but it can facilitate the process. A first step is to recognise fear of crime is not irrational just because recorded crime is down. It is a reasonable response by a public feeling remote from the police.

Nonsense. Well, half nonsense. Because it is certainly true that the fear of crime is a debilitating thing, and that it needs to be dealt with. But we will only be able to get a grip on it once we recognise that it is indeed irrational, and stop pretending otherwise.

If the fear of something is greatly out of proportion to the possibility that it might happen, then that fear is irrational, full stop. All parties have been going on about the semi-mythical “bobbies on the beat” for decades, yet it is simply impossible to have a policeman on every street corner, at all times. The level at which a visible police force would start to ‘reassure’ the public would be simply unattainable. Spending a fortune on recruiting, training and retaining policemen who will then be given nothing more to do than walk around to ‘reassure’ people would be simply silly.

It simply isn’t good enough for parties and journalists to persist with this line. We don’t need the police to reclaim the streets, as the Observer suggests, but the public to. How we tackle such a seemingly intractable notion is the big question, but by asking it we might just find the answer.

One thing we, as a society, might try is to reverse the trend towards viewing anti-social behaviour as criminality. 12 years ago, we had more crime, but no-one knew what anti-social behaviour was. One of New Labour’s most pernicious legacies has been to convince people that naughtiness, rowdiness and petty vandalism is something the police should handle when in the past it was something the community itself sorted out. The more we concentrate on anti-social behaviour, the worse it seems. We can never win the war on anti-social behaviour because it is so mutable: unless all young people transform into angels en masse, there will always be someone doing something that upsets someone.

Worse, it seems to have created an antagonism towards the police that eclipses even the attitude when I was a teenager. I remember my sixth form being chased down Bromley High Street by coppers with dogs simply because the landlord at a pub we had paid to hold a party at smelt a spliff. That was a moronic over-reaction by the boys in blue. Now they are charged with enforcing curfews on any kid who doesn’t look like they have a place to go. You couldn’t invent a better system for alienating young people from authority if you tried.

I’m sure that round the edges there are things that governments could do to sort this unholy mess out, but ultimately it is up to all of us to actually turn this situation around. In my view, we need to develop a mass participation consciousness-raising campaign such as Full Stop or Make Poverty History, to persuade people that they are the agents of their own destiny, that they need to take responsibility over their own children and that they need to rebuild the adult solidarity. Such a campaign, if it could be made a success, would be one of the most liberating mass movements in our history. As such, it would inevitably come up against a political and cultural establishment – politicians, the police and of course the tabloid press which would all be emasculated by it.

How could we achieve such a thing? Haven’t the foggiest, sorry. Answers on a postcard please. All I know is that the alternative – to continue indulging the fear of crime – leads to a vicious circle of self-destructive madness.

In the meantime, I suggest we can make a start by doing things such as getting former policemen who admit to finding the concept of anarchism appealing elected as London Mayor. Just an idea.

Knick-knack Paddick-whack

Regular readers may recall that I don’t have too much faith in the capacity of parties to find suitable candidates for London Mayor. The problem is, there are simply too few roles available for people to perform credible “apprenticeships” for the top job, the GLA being an anonymous talking shop. Thus far the only elected London Mayor was also the last leader of the GLC – a body which no longer exists.

So while I wasn’t exactly surprised, I was delighted to learn that Brian Paddick has expressed an interest in standing for the post. It remains to be seen who else might come out of the woodwork, but Paddick performs the rare feat of being telegenic, having gravitas and having direct experience of running a London-wide public authority. He’ll be a touch act to follow. So far, the only other potential candidate, Lembit Opik, would seem to have only one of those three crucial characteristics.

With the Tories flailing to find a credible candidate and being forced to choose between a top-hatted Etonian toff (currently being taken to task by Doreen Lawrence), an ewok, and an assortment of anonymous figures, were Paddick to get the Lib Dem ticket the contest could very rapidly begin to resemble a run-off between him and Livingstone.