Wednesday, 5 January 2011

50p tax-rate - who is Boris speaking for?

The Mayor is back on his favourite hobby horse - campaigning to lower taxes for the richest 300,000 people in Britain.

Interestingly, the claim he previously used to support his campaign - that there would be an exodus of bankers from London - has been dropped. "It's not so much people leaving", the Mayor now says, "it's firms thinking where to open an office next". Firms thinking where to locate next is the new pressing reason why the small number of extremely wealthy people in Britain shouldn't pay 50p from each £1 they earn over £150,000 towards closing the budget deficit, according to the Mayor.

I've written to the Evening Standard on this issue but, in case it fails to makes the final cut (as letters that draw attention to the causes of the budget deficit or the need for fairer taxes and regulation often do), I've reproduced my letter here:

Dear editor,

Boris Johnson appears to have forgotten that the world economy was brought to the brink by unfettered, casino banking (Boris Johnson: help the city by scrapping 50p tax rate, 5 January). He should be more concerned with setting out a sensible way to ensure that this is never allowed to happen again than with seeking to lower taxes for the financial service sector.

Nobody is arguing for bankers to be driven out of London, and what is clear now they haven’t upped sticks as the Mayor warned they would, is that London has far more to offer than low taxes and lax regulation.

London has been a comparatively safe city; a hub of arts, culture and opportunity. It offers much to high and low earners alike that other cities cannot. The real risk to all this comes not from regulation and reasonable rates of taxation, but from huge government cuts to the police, transport, the arts and public services.

London under Boris Johnson is set to lose police officers, council services like libraries and rubbish collection, as well as investment in economic regeneration, public transport and affordable housing. Further and higher edcuation is set to become too expensive for many. Rather than campaigning for a tax cut for the richest 300,000 people in Britain, the Mayor should make fighting these threats to our city his priority.

Len Duvall AM Labour group leader, London Assembly

*UPDATE* Pleasantly surprised that my letter has made it onto p.52 of this evening's paper. Should have had more faith in their editorial policy

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Crumbs from the bankers' table or progressive tax and regulation?

How grateful should Londoners be for the Mayor's latest call on bankers to "give something back" by donating some of their bumper Christmas bonuses to after-school clubs?

He says:

"With the bonus season upon us, I hope others — individuals, as well as institutions — will give something back"

This is little more than a smoke screen.

If Boris Johnson really believed bankers should pay something back, he wouldn't have spent his time as Mayor campaigning against:

He wouldn't have dismissed calls for fairer tax and regulation as "neo-socialist claptrap" and he wouldn't have wrote that people should "stop whingeing about house prices boosted by City bonuses".

It seems the Mayor wants us to forget that the banks' wreckless behaviour caused the economic crisis and resulting budget deficit. And he wants bankers to encourage our collective amnesia by sparing a few crumbs from their table of generous bonuses for charities of their choice.

Of course, any charitable donations from bankers or anyone else this Christmas are welcome. But this misses the point.

Charitable donations will not prevent another financial crash. Nor will they reduce income inequality or contribute to balancing the government's books. They shouldn't be allowed to take the place of progressive taxation by absolving bankers of their real responsibilities.

Only regulation and a tax regime which encourages corporate responsibilty - the very things Boris Johnson has campaigned against - will achieve this.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Comprehenisve Spending Review: What it means for Londoners...

The Comprehensive Spending Review will hit middle income earners in London and attacks the poorest, with women shouldering the biggest burden.

We have just seen a series of swingeing cuts attacking police, transport, housing – with higher rents for tenants, benefit caps that will hit Londoners hardest and thousands of jobs lost – not just in the public sector, but across the board.

  • We have already seen cuts in London, imposed by Boris, which include
  • £1.7bn cut to London’s bus service;
  • £16m cut to Metropolitan Police Funding
  • Cut of 455 Metropolitan police officers
  • A £16m cut to London Underground with 400 Tube Ticket Office jobs to go and ticket offices closing all over London
  • Plans to make London Underground step free have been axed
  • London’s affordable childcare programme has been axed
  • Extending the Docklands Light Railway and upgrading Croydon’s Tramlink – both axed.

Today’s announcement by George Obsorne is a vicious attack on London and Londoners.

If the 20% cut in policing is translated into police numbers, that’s another cut of 6,500 police officers and almost 900 PCSO’s in London.

If we add today’s cuts to the Mayor’s cuts to transport in London, we see cuts of over £6billion to London’s transport system.

Tube and bus fares are likely to go up by 7% - bus fares have already increased by 20% last year and have actually increased by a third since 2004.

Housing – the budget for social housing has been cut by 50%. The cuts to housing benefit and today’s announcement to charge up to 80% of market rates for social housing will disproportionally affect Londoners – especially those living in central London.

The Mayor himself said earlier this year no government has moved “so far and so fast to make cuts” as has his administration at City Hall.

Of course, I welcome the reports that Crossrail will be spared but the cuts being imposed today, and those imposed earlier by Boris, will severely affect Londoners from all walks of life.

Friday, 3 September 2010

E-mail to Greenwich & Lewisham Labour Party members

Dear Labour Party Member,

I have been asked by a number of Labour Party members about who I am supporting in the contests for the leadership of the Party and to be the Labour candidate for London mayor. For some, I realise the choices are not easy.

I have been fortunate to have attended a number of hustings and debates and witnessed the performances of the various candidates. And like you I have now received literature from most candidates.

For me, the debate has been characterised by the issue of realism versus populism. Having listened to some of the internal debates amongst Labour Party activists, I think we sometimes need to remind ourselves that not everything Labour did in our 13 years of government was bad. In fact, we did a lot of good things and of course we would have liked to have done a lot more. Of course, on reflection, there are things we might have done differently.

But, despite losing the last national election, we still have good support which can be built upon to deliver another Labour Government. However, the work to retain and regain the trust of our communities must begin quickly.

That's why I am supporting David Miliband as the only candidate who has realistically assessed the challenges for Labour in the future. He has repeatedly said that we cannot go back to the past and must prepare for the challenges we face now and in the future. I've copied David’s latest email below.

We need a leader who has the presence and calibre not just to lead the Labour Party but also to become a prime minister. David Miliband has shown recently that he has that experience as well as the ability to turn policy into practical actions that make a difference. Anyone watching some of the television debates and interviews cannot have failed to have been impressed by him dealing with the difficult questions. He has worked hard to gain broad support across the different political views of the Party and trade union movement. He does not want to see a return to some of the divisive debates of the past.

Please look at his website if you want to know more about his policies but I would urge you to give him your first preference (or, failing that, a second preference) in the Labour Party leadership ballot. I would also recommend you read his latest email below.

Len Duvall

PS Don't forget to vote for Ken Livingstone in the London mayoral ballot. Over the years Ken has met and faced many tough challenges. He has the experience and skills to win for Labour. Between 2000 and 2008 he increased the number of police officers in London and created new transport infrastructure which the Tories are slowly trying to dismantle. London needs an effective advocate and champion in these difficult times to challenge the excessive cuts of this Conservative-led coaltion government.

Dear Len,

I respect both Tony and Gordon deeply. But their time has passed. Their names do not appear on the leadership ballots. And now we need to stop their achievements being sidelined and their failings holding us back.

I'm sick and tired of the caricature that this leadership election is a choice between rejecting or retaining New Labour. It does a disservice to all of the candidates and, even worse, a disservice to the thousands of members who’ve been participating in this contest over the last few months and working hard for years.

To those trying to trash our past and those trying to recreate it, I say enough is enough, it is time to move on.

I joined the Labour Party back in 1983 because I believed then, as I do now, that we are stronger when we stand together. And that has never been truer than when applied to our Party.

I believe that this election is about pulling together all the talents of our Party. It's about teamwork, mutual respect - and a rejection of the tired old Westminster games of closed door briefings, posturing, attack and rebuttal. I want to change the way we do politics.

Because I want to lead a government not a gang, a movement not a machine, where honest debate can be a source of strength, not a sign of weakness.

And we do this for a simple goal – because we want Labour to be the Party that enables hard working people to achieve their aspirations.

That means building a new economy – to drive down unemployment right across Britain. It means ensuring work pays with a living wage. It requires tackling the too wide gap in life chances.

In politics, moments matter. So as your ballot papers land on your doorstep in the next few days, I humbly ask for your vote for Leader of our Party.

If you’re planning to vote for me as your first preference or second preference please let me know by clicking here Or if you’re still undecided please click here and a member of my team will be in touch

Together we can cast the old play book aside – we can once again reflect the lives, the communities and the best hopes of the British people.

The first 100 days of the Coalition Government has shown their creed - and made our task all the more urgent. There are millions of people who need Labour to win again to deliver them a fair chance in life. And I will not let them down.

I am ready to lead. But at this crucial moment I need your support to make the Labour Party the change Britain needs.

Please vote for me as your first preference.

Thank you,

David Miliband

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Labour elections: different leader; same mayor

In the course of a Twitter debate a few days ago, a volunteer on David Miliband’s campaign who is backing Ken Livingstone for Mayor became involved in an exchange with some of those supporting Ken’s rival for the London nomination.

The argument of some during the debate was that if you were supporting David Miliband for the leadership, you could not possibly support Ken Livingstone to run for Mayor.

But the reality is many David Miliband supporters are also backing Ken. One of Ken’s earliest endorsers was Virendra Sharma MP, who has also backed David Miliband. Yesterday Jon Cruddas became another high profile example. Four of the five Labour London Assembly members who are backing David Miliband (including me) are also backing Ken.

Ken’s campaign is seeking to unite the London Labour party and welcomes support from the supporters of all the leadership candidates. Devolved politics means different alliances for different reasons are formed – and in London the dynamic is clearly towards a broad degree of unity around Ken Livingstone’s candidacy.

Hence, just as many David Miliband supporters also back Ken, so Ken’s campaign has received backing from supporters of all the other leadership campaigns.

Just last week I was telephone canvassing with Ken’s team and found myself amongst Andy Burnham supporters, Diane Abbot supporters, those backing either of the Eds, David Miliband, and even an ex-Lib Dem crossing off the days since he left the party – all campaigning for Ken, and many under 20.

They are our future in Labour and it was great to be part of debates and conversations all from different political perspectives about the direction we are heading.

These party members are not going to be bullied into making decisions based on old tribal loyalties of the past. In the mayoral contest, and the leadership contest, members are taking a hard look at all the candidates and coming to a rational, considered view on who is best for Labour.

The political zealots – the “Labour Party Taliban” – who seek to play the tired, divisive game of internal politicking that has overshadowed much of our recent and not so recent history are, I think, in for a shock. The majority of party members, certainly the ones I have been campaigning alongside, just do not want to go there and neither does the wider electorate.

I remain on good terms with colleagues and friends who do not share my views or my support for this candidate or that – and that’s how it should be. In the coming months and years the broad church of Labour will need to come together to defeat our real opponents. We should not be wasting time and energy with factional, internal battles.

Nationally and in London we need to retain, and in some cases regain, support from all sections of society. In London we have a good base on which to build: the last local elections saw Labour make exceptional gains in both inner and outer London and, despite some losses, we made gains in the last GLA and European elections.

But in the changed political landscape we will be fighting on different political territory. We must seek to limit the Coalition’s term in office and to do so we need strong, experienced leaders who recognise the reality we face. Both in London and nationally this means someone who can articulate a clear and unambiguous message for Labour.

That’s why I am supporting Ken Livingstone to win back the mayoralty and David Miliband to defeat the Coalition government. There is no contradiction between the two and only unreconstructed tribalists will try to suggest otherwise.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Bad news from Boris on Blackwall

You might recall that I sent a letter to the Mayor on 1 April asking that the Woolwich Ferry be kept open throughout the night during the Blackwall Tunnel closures. Click on the images below to read the Mayor's detailed response. Please feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Two years on, the cost of the Tories in London is clear

Below is my piece for, which has been picked up by the Guardian

This week marks the second anniversary of Boris Johnson’s election as Mayor of London. With just days to go until the country goes to the polls, what does the administration of Cameron’s Bullingdon Club colleague tell us about how a Tory government might look? If they really are the party of change, what kind of change can we expect?

On all the big issues facing London – housing, public services, transport, crime, safety and the environment – the Tories’ record in power is not a good one.

There are over a third of a million households on London’s housing waiting lists – families often living in over-crowded and poor conditions and with little security. Yet despite this urgent need, one of Boris Johnson’s first moves was to scrap the policy that half of all new housing should be affordable. And he has gone back on his election pledge to build 50,000 affordable homes by 2011.

Despite promising to chair the Metropolitan Police Authority to get more police on the street, Johnson is actually cutting 455 officers and has refused to guarantee the neighbourhood policing model of one sergeant, two PCs and three PCSOs for every London ward.

And while he rails against public sector “fat cats” in his Daily Telegraph column, he has presided over massive pay rises for himself and his most senior staff, while cutting jobs lower down the chain.

His re-organisation of City Hall has made the GLA more white and more male.

Just a couple of weeks ago, it was announced that London’s childcare affordability team is being scrapped. With the future of early years and Sure Start centres in jeopardy from the Conservatives, Boris Johnson’s decision puts 10,000 childcare places for low-income families under threat.

But it is arguably transport which has suffered most thanks to Tory rule in London.

Boris Johnson has failed to persuade his party to commit to Crossrail. He has cancelled a funded Thames crossing in East London that would have brought jobs and regeneration to the area. And wasteful, regressive decisions like halving the size of the congestion charge zone, replacing London’s modern bus fleet and wasting over £1.5m per vehicle on building five new double-deckers have been paid for by the biggest real terms fare rises in Transport for London’s history.

Hardworking Londoners faced 20% bus fare rises in January thanks to Boris Johnson’s decisions. And rather than keeping fares down and protecting public services, he has instead spent his political capital campaigning against tighter regulation for financial services and a higher rate of tax for those earning more than £150,000. He has spent his time talking up the chances of bankers leaving London, warning they have been “punished enough”, and has campaigned against taxing City bonuses.

On the environment, London has gone from being a world-leader in tackling climate change to losing the chair of the influential C40 group. Under the Conservatives, plans to charge the most polluting vehicles a higher rate of congestion charge have been cancelled.

And while up to 5,000 Londoners die prematurely because of the city’s poor air quality, Boris Johnson prevented a scheme going ahead which would have charged the most polluting vehicles for driving into Greater London.

This is the cost of the Conservatives in London: a less green city, higher fares for hard-working Londoners, reduced services and a lack of support for people who need a home they can afford.

For anyone who thinks the Tories have changed, Boris Johnson’s two years in charge of London reveals their true face. The presentation may have improved, but at every opportunity the “nasty” party will fall down on the side of the few, not the many.