This is the full text of the keynote, ‘State of the Race’, speech made earlier today by Labour’s candidate for London Mayor, Ken Livingstone:
As we enter the last ten days of campaigning I want to talk about the state of the race and what we have to do in the remaining week and a half to make a difference.
The Tories want this election to be about trivia not policy. Some in the media are obsessed with personalities.
But this is not about two personalities competing to be Mayor.
It is about 8 million Londoners.
And what a Mayor with a budget of £14bn a year can do to make their lives better.
It’s a choice between Labour policies and Tory policies.
Labour values and Tory values.
A Labour Mayor who will make you better off, and a Tory who will use his power over fares to make you worse off.
Today I’m hoping that the campaign can focus on something different to the usual soap opera.
So far we’ve talked about tax bills, tears, rows in lifts, and whether or not real Londoners were actually actors in our election broadcast.
For this last full week of the election campaign, I want to talk about the choice that Londoners face.
Over the last two years I have visited every London borough on numerous occasions.
Thousands of people have talked to me about their lives and aspirations.
In the multitude of issues and problems, one theme kept coming through.
That Londoners of all ages, men and women, black and white, are really struggling under the impact of the economic crisis
People aren’t just worried about paying for their holidays, they are struggling with fares and rents and anxious about their bills.
And they want to know what the Mayor will do to help them.
That is what the election is really about: who will make Londoners better off? The Tories don’t agree – despite copying Labour’s ‘better off’ slogan they believe soaring rents, rising energy bills, inflation-busting fares, are all the ‘inevitable’ impact of market forces.
And in the way ancient religions worshipped the power of the sun, wind or sea, we are supposed bow down before the unstoppable power of market forces.
But when increase, energy bills rise, and fares are hiked this doesn’t mean there is less money around – just that ordinary people – the 99% – have less of it.
The big energy companies, the rip-off lettings agents and TfL under the Tory mayor all have more money.
And the bankers whom the Tories have just given a tax cut, are still getting their bonuses.
The Labour argument is that ordinary people should not be made to pay for the crisis.
The post-War Labour government took over a financially bankrupt nation.
Its response was not to scrap public sector jobs, increase taxes on older people, and hike up fares.
It was to get people back to work, a massive programme of reconstruction, home building and the introduction of the welfare state.
Not only was it fair. It worked. These were Labour values in action.
When London and the rest of the UK was hit by the global recession, we were determined to do all we could to see people through difficult times.
We protected viable businesses, helped them keep people in work, created new jobs, and bolstered family finances of the most hard-pressed.
And we did all that we could to prevent the repossessions which was the hallmark of the Tory recession of the early 1990s.
We stood up for the majority on low and middle incomes – and did all we could to see them through difficult times.
And what do we see now?
People face the same problems but no longer having a Government or a Mayor on their side:
The Tories only worry about are those earning over £150,000 a year.
A tax cut for millionaires will be paid for by half a million families and pensioners in London.
The Mayor does not have the powers to fully protect Londoners against this Tory Government assault. But faced with the worst economic crisis for 50 years, I will use all of the powers of the Mayor’s office to protect them. Take how we help young people.
I’ve met students in the last year who said they couldn’t buy lunch because they had to buy books.
The Education Maintenance Allowance was introduced by Labour to help 16-19 year old students with £30 a week towards costs of staying in education.
It was abolished by the Tory government without a peep from the Tory mayor, despite the fact that over 80,000 young Londoners and their families lost out as a result.
As Labour mayor I will restore the EMA by working with colleges, universities and local authorities to pool resources and bring it back.
The Tories say the Mayor has no money to do this.
Labour says that it is the job of the Mayor to be innovative, by bringing together other organisations that do have funding available to re-create a London-wide EMA.
And that’s what a Labour administration will do. Similarly, the housing crisis in London is now so bad that my team have had to set-up a database of ‘housing horrors’.
I’ve had Londoners on ordinary incomes tell me how they have to pay more than half their income on rent for a standard flat
The Tory response is that rents are not the responsibility of the Mayor.
The Labour response is to think creatively about what we can do.
When we found that many lettings agencies charge annual fees of more than 10% of rental income, forcing good and bad landlords alike to keep rents high, it was clear that there is something the mayor can do to help.
Our new lettings agency will reduce rents by cutting out the profits of these rip-off lettings agents.
This builds on the good work already being done in this area by some Labour councils in London.
The London lettings agency has caused apoplexy among some lettings agents, but the National Landlords Association has applauded it.
Londoners living in private rented homes will save hundreds of pounds a year, as well has benefiting from minimum standards for accommodation, that starts to root out the appalling conditions in which people on low incomes are forced to live. Many older Londoners are really struggling.
They mostly live on their pensions, topped up by a little bit of savings for some.
The Tory mayor ran a campaign to abolish the 50p tax rate. But someone else had to pay for it – the ‘granny tax’.
Traditionally, the Tories pose as the friend of pensioners.
But now when I meet older Londoners, they know where the Tories’ real loyalties lie.
It is a core labour value to ensure older people aren’t in poverty.
It was Labour who introduced the first comprehensive retirement insurance in 1946.
But now too many older Londoners live in fuel poverty, and even have to make the choice whether to heat or eat.
In the last recorded year, 2,500 older Londoners died in London – one of the wealthiest cities on Earth – from being unable to heat their homes properly
My pledge is to ensure 400,000 households in London are entitled to free insulation as of right, which will cut their bills by an average of £150 a year.
And I will protect the Freedom Pass for every Londoner over the age of 60, after Tory councils pushed through increasing the age limit to 66. Labour has a long history of helping ordinary people with energy.
As far back as Herbert Morrison and the London County Council, we created a municipal energy company to bring electricity to ordinary working people for the first time.
Now Londoners generally are struggling under the burden of energy bills that have risen by an average of £300 a year in the last Mayoral term.
Our London energy co-op will cut out the profits of the energy companies and reduce energy bills by up to £120 a year for all households that sign up. The cost of childcare in London is going through the roof and for many its unavailable almost at any price.
I have met numerous families where one parent – usually the mother – would like to go back to work, but it simply isn’t financially possible because of the cost of childcare.
It was Labour who established the Sure Start programme and introduced the Working Families Tax Credits.
This Tory government cut both.
As mayor I worked with the Labour government to find an extra £20 million a year to help families with the costs of childcare.
The Tory mayor now boasts of cutting this vital support as part of his drive to eliminate ‘waste’.
As Labour Mayor, I will provide childcare grants and interest-free loans for middle income and poorer families, to help them back into work and will support nurseries to extend their opening hours. One consequence of the current crisis is the rise in serious crimes that blight Londoners’ lives.
Knife crime and burglary have risen every year for the last three years.
In the last year, rape, mugging and residential burglary are all higher across London.
One of the great myths of British politics is that the Tories are good on law and order.
One of the most interesting speeches I’ve heard at a Labour conference was made by Yvette Cooper last year.
She said that ‘every Tory government since records began has seen crime go up not down’. And it’s true.
They’ve cut funding for the police at a national level and the Tory mayor has admitted to cutting police numbers by 1,700.
New figures for 2012 show the cut rose to 2,100 officers.
At a time of rising crime and in a year when London was beset with social unrest during the riots, that is a scandal. And it’s just 12 weeks to the Olympics!
It’s no good the Tories now pulling back retired coppers and raw recruits in a desperate bid to get the numbers back up.
We’ve already felt the consequences.
When Labour puts forward its argument that we can make you better off, that includes your safety and the right to live free from the fear of crime. We will restore officers to their peak level in 2010. The most controversial policy in this election should be the Tories plan to raise fares by 2% above inflation each year.
The Tory Mayor says this election is about trust, but while all of the other three main candidates have set out clear policies to cut fares, he has refused to tell Londoners what he will do.
There’s no mention of it in his manifesto.
But the TfL Business Plan that he signed off as Mayor this February states his commitment to inflation-busting fares hikes in each of the next four years.
That’s why at last night’s BBC debate I challenged the Tory Mayor to come clean with Londoners that this is his real plan – to raise fares above inflation every year.
He wouldn’t answer.
Setting fares policy is the single biggest decision the Mayor has to make.
It is extraordinary that the Tory Mayor should try and pull the wool over Londoners eyes about his real intention to raise.
And it beggars belief to argue that he doesn’t yet know what his policy would be – if he were to win on 3 May, within a few months he would have to take a decision on next year’s fares level.
Londoners deserve to know all the main candidates’ policy on fares.
So today I’ll make a new challenge.
Now that the BBC has cancelled the planned London Question Time, we are all free on Thursday evening.
If Boris Johnson will agree, I am happy to sit down in a TV studio anywhere in London and let the media fire questions at us about our respective fares policies, so that Londoners can be clear about the choice they face.
My own policy is simple, it is to cut fares saving the average fare-payer £1,000 over four years on average – £1,700 if you live in outer London.
The ridiculous thing is that it is the most modest fares cut I have proposed in all my time as leader of the GLC and as Mayor.
Yet it prompted the Tory Mayor to say (and I quote) ‘Londoners neither want or deserve a fares cut’.
We have been variously told that the money doesn’t exist, that it will be used next year, that it’s needed to pay down debt last year and that it is going to be used for investment.
But we have been clear with Londoners that the money is there in the TfL surplus, as several former transport ministers and, most recently, eleven economics professors have confirmed. We have the most expensive fares in the world. No-one can say that our service is also the best.
There have been inflation-busting fare rises in each of the last 4 years AND yet the investment budget has been under-spent by over £1bn.
We will cut fares and to increase investment in the network to improve services. The Fare Deal policy is the centre-piece of our Better Off pledge to Londoners because it is the biggest single saving that a Labour administration can deliver to a large proportion of Londoners.
But our entire programme is to defend ordinary Londoners, from the attacks on their standard of living.
I am sure you have all seen the two main party election broadcasts.
In one, the Tory mayor talks about himself.
In the Labour broadcast, ordinary Londoners talk about what London needs.
The Conservative party want you to forget that there is a Conservative candidate in this election.
But this is about which party is best to serve the residents of greater London.
Take a look at the Budget.
The Tory tax cut for the richest is being paid for by extra taxes on older people and families. 410,000 pensioners are worse off.
From the pasty tax to the granny tax and the jerry-can fiasco people are turning away from the Tories.
Our NHS is under attack.
Students are being made to pay for an economic crisis they did not cause, with higher tuition fees.
Public servants, not bankers, face job losses and pay cuts.
A victory for the Tories in ten days time will be used as a green light for deepening the Tory onslaught.
They will use it to vindicate the next phase of their plans.
Every single person in Britain therefore has a stake in ensuring the Tories do not get that endorsement.
Even Conservative voters have good reason not to reward their party.
Whatever people think about the personalities of the two protaganists, this is the wider story.
Some may find one of us funnier than the other.
But in the end there are two parties, two sets of policies, two sets of values. That is what matters.
A vote for the Conservative candidate in such a vital election is, in the end, a vote for what the Tories are doing to our country and our city.
As we enter this vital phase of the election I am saying to Londoners, now is the time for a Labour administration, not a Tory one.
For your sake, for your family’s sake, and for Londoners sake, only Labour values will make you better off.Other news from London Assembly Labour