As a result of the lobbying efforts of groups such as Muslim4Ken, and the voter registration campaigns of community groups, a record number of Muslims in London participated in the 1st May 2008 Mayoral and London Assembly elections. The generally wide-spread support for Ken Livingstone amongst the Capital City's Black and Asian ethnic groups however was not sufficient to buck national trends, and the outcome was victory for the Conservative candidate Boris Johnson. For the first time, the extreme right wing British National Party was also able to win a seat in the London Assembly. However the Ken Livingstone factor meant that the swing against Labour was less in London than other parts of the country. This is a lesson for party strategists preparing for the 2009 General Election - on the continuing importance of the BME vote and progressive policies tackling discrimination and inequalities.
The Muslims4Ken campaign is extremely proud of its achievement in bringing out to vote thousands - if not tens of thousands - of people who would have otherwise sat at home and done nothing, thereby cementing their feelings of being lesser citizens with fewer rights. The Guardian, 4th May 2008
University & College Union assessment
The fascist BNP gained a seat on the London Assembly, polling 130,174 - 5.33% - just crossing the 5% hurdle needed to get elected. This is the biggest electoral breakthrough for a fascist organisation in British politics. The BNP vote was particularly high - around the 18,000 figure - in Bexley & Bromley, City & East and Havering & Redbridge. The BNP vote increased by 44% from 2004, however the BNP vote had increased by 90% from 2000 to 2004.
The BNP vote in the Mayoral election was 69,710 - much lower than the vote in the London Assembly - indicating that half of the people that voted BNP on the Assembly voted for Boris Johnson as first preference. Unite, 6th May 2008
An appreciation from the Muslim Council of Britain
The Muslim Council of Britain congratulates Boris Johnson for his election victory as Mayor of London. Mr Johnson takes over as Mayor from Mr Ken Livingstone, who led the city for the past eight years.
Paying tribute to Mr Livingstone, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said, "By all accounts, Ken Livingstone has once again put London on the map. It has become a great world city and he has done so by recognising and harnessing the dynamism of its cosmopolitan and multi-racial population." Writing to Mr Livingstone, Dr Bari said: London's Muslims will not forget your staunch and unflinching support...you stood by us when slings and arrows were thrown our way by those who seek to divide us."
In a letter to Boris Johnson, Dr Bari praised the Mayoral incumbent for his gracious victory speech and said " I hope you will agree with me that with the city's generous heart, coupled by its multi-racial dynamism, we can overcome those divisions and take the city to even greater levels of greatness. Your predecessor recognised this, and aside from the controversies, did much to ensure that Muslims were part-and-parcel of London life."
During the election campaign, the Muslim Council of Britain initiated a series of campaigns to encourage voter participation and to raise awareness against the far right. It is disappointed that, despite an effort that involved an alliance across faiths and parties, the London Assembly now includes a member of the far right. Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari said "it is time for us to reflect on how, in this day and age, divisive and hateful parties can get a foothold in such an important institution. We must redouble our joint efforts to avert their influence or impact."
For us, as for other Cricklewood households, you have never been some aloof figure living in the shires, but genuinely a man of the people. We have seen you walking your toddler son along Anson Road and board the tube at Willesden Green. And when there were tube strikes, we have seen you wait for the bus on Walm Lane – just like all of us.
Of course you don’t know us, one household among thousands. But as a household we are inveterate letter-writers and our first one to you was in the 1980s – you were one of the few political leaders opposing Israel’s illegal invasion of Lebanon that led to the tragedies of Sabra and Shatila. We wrote in to the GLC - which you were then heading - commending your stand, and your response remains in our family files.
[But] what's striking is how much better Livingstone (and to some extent Labour on his coattails) did in London than the party in the rest of the country: on first preferences Livingstone scored 36% to Boris Johnson's 42%; on second, he reached 47% to Johnson's 53% - with BNP voters helping to see the Tory home and dry. Livingstone's 12% advantage over Labour's national score - a sort of progressive premium - has important lessons for the party nationally as the battle over its future direction heats up.
Of course local and personal factors mean there can be no straight read-across from London to the national stage, even though the capital traditionally tends to mirror the wider electoral balance. But it's also clear that the kind of progressive coalition and policies that Livingstone favoured - on transport, housing, privatisation and redistribution - are a good deal more popular with voters than the rudderless triangulation currently on offer from Gordon Brown.
The election of the London Mayor and London Assembly members - the political leadership of the capital city for the next four years - is a choice between a bright vision of a sharing community that celebrates its cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, and the monochrome London of the Alf Garnett days.
Soumaya Ghannoushi writes....
What is at stake on May 1 is the spirit of this vibrant cosmopolitan city with its unique mix of races and cultures and its vision of itself - nothing less. The Guardian, 16th April 2008
Ken Livingstone was born in Lambeth in 1945 and educated at Tulse Hill Comprehensive School. After eight years working as a technician at the Chester Beatty Cancer Research Institute in London, he entered Phillipa Fawcett Teacher Training College, qualifying in 1973. In 1973 he was elected as a Labour member of the Greater London Council. He was Vice-Chair of Housing Management from 1974 to 1975 and was elected Leader in 1981. He remained Leader until March 1986 when Margaret Thatcher abolished the GLC - Ken Livingstone was her particular 'bete-noire'.
From 1987 to June 2001, he served as Labour Member of Parliament for Brent East. He was elected as member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party between 1987 to 1989, and from 1997 to 1998.
He was elected to the position of Mayor of London in 2000, having been expelled from the Labour Party for running as an independent candidate. He was readmitted to the Labour party in 2004, shortly before re-election as Mayor. Labour has endorsed him for the 2008 election.
What people think
Soumaya Ghannoushi:...After two successive electoral defeats under rightwing leaders, the Tories have been striving to remarket themselves as an open, tolerant party, with a young modern leader and a sprinkling of minority faces at the top. But their selection of Johnson as mayoral candidate, followed by Cameron's patronage of his campaign, reveals that the change has only been skin deep. Johnson is the bridge that links both sides of the rightwing spectrum. He has brought the extreme into the mainstream.
That someone with Johnson's record could have been considered for the leadership of a city like London (almost one-third of whose residents are of ethnic minority backgrounds, and 10% Muslim), let alone stand a chance of winning, is truly astonishing. Those who reduce this race to arguments over bendy buses miss the point. The choice before Londoners could not be more serious. What is at stake on May 1 is the spirit of this vibrant cosmopolitan city with its unique mix of races and cultures and its vision of itself - nothing less. The Guardian, 16th April 2008
From the British Muslim Initiative: "David Cameron has today chosen to throw the weight of his full support behind Boris Johnson, raising serious questions regarding commitment to his new brand of "modern compassionate Toryism".
Despite repeated requests, Cameron has refused to distance himself from Johnson's offensive and xenophobic comments against the black and Muslim communities. He has remained silent on a series of alarming comments made by Johnson in which he has called black people..."
From Britain's progressive voices: "...On May 1 London will elect a mayor. It will either be Ken Livingstone or Boris Johnson. Ken Livingstone is not perfect. Show us a politician who is. But he is not just a serious and skilled politician compared to almost any rival - especially the horror and embarrassment of the Boris Johnson alternative - Livingstone is a standard bearer for real progressive politics. That is why this election matters to the nation, not just the capital. Livingstone represents a hope that something better is possible; that a different type of society is not just some pipedream of the left, but can be created. This is the reason he is under such severe attack...".
Gemma Tumelty, Helena Kennedy, Tony Benn & others - letter to the Guardian, 25th Feb
Salaam blogger writes: "Martin Bright’s intervention ten weeks before polling day for the London elections (1st May) is a neo-Con attempt to punish Livingstone and boost the chances of the Tory candidate, the erratic Boris Johnson, author of the novel ‘Seventy Two virgins’ set around a terrorist plot in London. London’s million Muslims have been helped in deciding which is to be the better choice".
Martin Bright's mythical dragons
Salaam blogger writes: "Under Ken’s leadership and vision, London today celebrates its cosmopolitan feel and rich diversity. Mayor Ken has empowered communities, streamlined the city’s services and is poised to lead it to the 2012 Olympic Games. Boris Johnson and beeswax
Seamus Milne writes in The Guardian: "As the most powerful British politician to have opposed the Iraq and Afghan wars and supported engagement with mainstream political Islam, [Ken] Livingstone has naturally attracted the enmity of the neocons...". 24th January, 2008
Boris Johnson was born in 1964 in New York, moving to London when he was five years old and went to Primary School in Camden.
He later won a scholarship to Eton and Oxford and after graduating he moved back to the Capital. Over the last twenty years, he has worked for The Wolverhampton Express and Star, The Times and The Telegraph, churning out well over a million words. He was editor of The Spectator for six years.
He has published several books, including a political-comic novel with a contemporary setting 'Seventy Two Virgins' and produced a TV series on Roman History from his book of the same name 'The Dream of Rome'.
He fought Clwyd South in the 1997 General Election and in 2001, was elected MP for Henley. Since then, he has held shadow posts as Vice Chairman, Shadow Minister for the Arts and Shadow Minister of Higher Education. With an eye on the Muslim vote, Johnson has tended to refer to his Turkish forebears - his great grandfather Ali Kemal was briefly minister of interior who came to an unsavoury end.
What people think
Seamus Milne writes in The Guardian:"... you have a Thatcherite who thinks it's witty to refer to Africans as "piccaninnies" and regrets the end of colonialism, is an enthusiastic Bush and Iraq war supporter, opposed the Kyoto treaty, and is against the welfare state and the 'teaching' of homosexuality in schools...Despite his record, Johnson's media profile and geniality mean he is the first serious challenge the mayor has had to face..". 24th January, 2008
Salaam blogger writes "And What is Boris Johnson’s track record? It is a bit like Simba trying to take the place of Mufasa the Lion King. Wait till June 2012 Simba! Elected as Tory MP for Henley (taking up Michael Haseltine’s seat) in 2001, Boris Johnson has lurched from one scandal to another and will have difficulty shaking off a playboy image. His parliamentary interventions reflect little interest in London affairs or the minutiae of local government. It is easy for those embedded in the Daily Telegraph or The Spectator to take swipes – but Boris has no track record of ever managing a public institution". Boris Johnson and beeswax
Paddick was born in 1958 in Balham, and spent his early years living in Mitcham and Tooting Bec. He received most of his secondary education in Sutton, joining the Met in 1976, and working through the ranks reaching his senior most position as deputy assistant commissioner in 2003. Through police scholarships, he studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the Queen’s College, Oxford and has a Master of Business Administration degree from Warwick Business School. He also has a diploma in Policing and Applied Criminology from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge.
On his selection by the Lib Dems as the London mayoral campaign Paddick noted, "For too long Londoners have been denied a serious debate on the future of their city. Less crime, better transport, cleaner air and fewer Londoners living in poverty are all crucial in making sure that London remains one of the most exciting cities in the world. I strongly believe that the position of Mayor can be a powerful source for good. During the coming months I will be explaining to people throughout London why the time has come for a change."
After the July 7 bombings, Paddick's message of reassurance that the Police would crack down on racist revenge crimes was much appreciated by the city's mosques. He was to fall out with Met Chief Ian Blair over who knew what after the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.
Each Londoner registered to vote on 1st May, has a total of four votes to cast:
The Mayoral election
Each voter can mark their ballot paper in the usual way against the candidate of their choice, and if they wish, indicate a second preference. The first choice votes for each candidate are counted and if one has gained an absolute majority over all rivals, he or she is elected. If no one has achieved this figure the second choices come into play. All except the leading two candidates are eliminated. The ballot papers containing first preference votes for the eliminated candidates are inspected and any second choice votes for the remaining two candidates are counted. These second preference votes are then allocated to the two leading candidates as appropriate and the one with the greater total of votes at this stage is declared the winner. In the 2004 election Ken Livingstone was declared mayor with 55.4 per cent of the votes included in the second stage, defeating the Conservative Steve Norris.
The London Assembly election
Each voter is assigned to one of fourteen London constituencies and can cast one vote for a constituency candidate; additionally, each voter can cast one vote to a party or person from the London-wide selection list. In 2004 the outcome was the election of nine Conservatives and five Labour members from the constituency list. The London-wide list election is used to top-up the results of the constituency elections to provide the full 25 Members, giving a distribution more in line with the overall voting than could be achieved through a 'first-past-the-post' system. In 2004,these 11 seats were distributed as follows: Labour 2, Lib Dem 5, Green Party 2, and UKIP 2.
Murad Qureshi [photo right] was one of the two Labour members successful in the Assembly List election.
This proportional representation introduces equity into the system - for example the constituency-based elections led to nine Conservatives elected - 60% of the available seats - with just over 30% per cent of the vote.
A note on the European election - not till 2009
Each voter can cast one vote for a party, for his or her London constituency. Nine MEPs are then selected on a purely proportional representation basis: in 2004, the Conservatives won the first seat with the highest overall votes 504,941 (across all 14 constituencies) and their total was then divided by two, for the second round (i.e. 252,471). The first person on the Conservative list, Theresa Villiers, was thus elected. The Labour Party polled 466,284 votes (across all 14 constituencies) and thus the candidate top of the Labour list, Claude Moraes, was elected. This total was then divided by two (i.e. 233,292), and the Party with the closest votes to this value (Lib Dems with 288,790) were successful in round 3, and the candidate on top of the Lib Dem list, Sarah Ludford, was elected. A total of nine MEPs were thus elected for the London region.
Syed Kamall was elected a Conservative MEP in the 2005 elections.
Challenging the BNP
The BNP has mobilised in 2008 to overcome the 5 per cent minimum threshold which eliminated the Party in 2004, and it is now also confident of gaining the former UKIP vote. It obtained 90,365 votes in the 2004 Assembly list elections - 4.8% of the total.
The greater the voter registration and polling on 1st May from among the progressive alliances, the more difficult it will be for the BNP to breach the 5% threshold.
The BNP's greatest support in 2004 was in Barking, Dagenham, Havering and Hillingdon. It also had supporters in Bexley and Hounslow, and also groupings in parts of Enfield and Croydon.
Searchlight Magazine notes, "While the BNP has no chance in winning any of the 14 constituencies, which use the first-past-the-post system, the party believes it will gain representation through the London-wide top-up election, in which 11 seats are available. These seats are distributed to reflect the party’s overall share of the vote... To win one Assembly seat the BNP would need to get 5% of the London-wide vote. For two seats they would need around 8% and for three little more than 11%.
...It must also be remembered that since the last London election the BNP has emerged as a significant force in outer east London, gaining 12 councillors in Barking and Dagenham and one in each of Havering and Redbridge. There are a further six BNP councillors just over the London border in Loughton".
Questions to ask the candidates
Do you recognise the Muslim community's concerns with the rise of Islamophobia? What will you do to tackle this problem?
Do you support the 'Eid in the Square' event?
Do you agree that the Mayor should have powers to persuade London boroughs to set affordable housing targets?
Are you prepared to apply the 'Mandela test' to terrorism legislation - i.e. oppose laws and practices that would have led to Nelson Mandela being banned and anyone supporting him criminalised?
What are your specific proposals and plans for making London a low-Carbon city for the future?