The truth about Brian Paddick

Sian asks just what direction the Lib Dem candidate for mayor, Brian Paddick, thinks he's cantering

The Guardian scored a bit of a coup this week, with three candidates for Mayor – including me - getting out their laptops over the weekend to take part in what can only be described as a stonking row on the Comment is Free website.

It all started when Ken Livingstone published a piece pointing out the uncanny similarities between Boris Johnson and Brian Paddick in the area of transport policy, and denouncing Paddick for announcing a policy to privatise the tube, something he called a “sharp change in Liberal Democrat policy in London”.

Brian is not one to take criticism lightly, and is also often to be found commenting on blogs in the small hours. (I’m almost positive the BrianPaddickDelivers who commented on my blog here is the candidate himself). So, it was no surprise to find one ‘BrianforMayor’ posting a long comment in response,standing up for himself and his transport plans.

Unfortunately, as I have written about here before (Porsche, Bozza and Paddick, 22/02/08, Ken’s accusations are spot on. However much he denies it, the fact is Brian IS in favour of privatising the tube. To be precise, taking it out of Transport for London’s control and running it on a ‘concession model’, the same way as the privatised buses, Docklands Light Railway and - until Livingstone bought it out recently - the Croydon Tram. Brian is proposing putting more of London’s transport systems out to tender, while Ken Livingstone is bringing more of them in-house, and this is a clear difference of policy, as well as a difference from LibDem views expressed in the past, and so is well worth pointing out in the course of an election.

Brian also stood up for his policy of opposing the new emissions-related congestion charge, in very similar vein toBrianPaddickDelivers on this site before. On Comment is Free, however, he was even less convincing, asking "why not graduate the charge like road tax?" despite this being precisely the plan: a zero rate at the bottom, with a large hike at the band G threshold of carbon emissions at 225 g/km. After many paragraphs of blog comments and several hustings, I still can honestly say I have no idea why he thinks the CO2 Charge is a bad idea.

But the most damaging accusation is that he is not pursuing the policies one might expect of a LibDem candidate leading an election campaign in London. It’s also the one where BrianforMayor has the flimsiest defence. His argument that "unlike the other two main candidates neither I or my partner have a car" is no kind of evidence of being a true LibDem on this issue.

Although I rarely dish out praise for people from other parties, the truth is that, on the £25 congestion charge, LibDem politicians were some of my 4x4 campaign’s earliest supporters, and LibDems along with Greens in local councils have been pioneering the same approach to parking charges around the country as well. With BrianforMayor calling these kinds of measures ‘playing politics with the planet’, there must be very many LibDem supporters out there - not to mention councillors and Assembly Members - wondering what happened to their candidate.

The to-and-fro of comments between Paddick and Livingstone continued for several very entertaining posts and that’s why I now owe newstatesman.com an apology. Because, I confess, I did succumb to temptation and get involved in the debate as well. In the end, I simply had to point out my own disappointment in Brian Paddick’s distinctly un-LibDem performance, and eventually took to my keyboard on Easter Sunday; what would otherwise have been a welcome day off (or at least a day spent reading the papers and generally catching up). I’m quite far down the page at 14.26 on March 23 if you’d like to have a read.
I do have a new development to report here as well. Today, while I was at a breakfast hustings with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Darren Johnson and Jenny Jones (our two Green London Assembly Members) delivered an open letter to LibDem leader Nick Clegg, lamenting Brian Paddick’s desertion of LibDem positions on the environment. Without a move from Brian to change his mind on the Low Emission Zone, tubeprivatisation or the CO2 charge, environmentally concernedLibDem supporters may find themselves with no option but to vote for me, they argue.

I’m very far from being a LibDem candidate (although I was described by the Daily Mail as a ‘chain-smoking libertarian who supports licensed brothels’, so my liberal credentials are pretty strong) but, with Brian Paddick moving increasingly far from his party in a different direction, I do think they have a point.

Sian Berry lives in Kentish Town and was previously a principal speaker and campaigns co-ordinator for the Green Party. She was also their London mayoral candidate in 2008. She works as a writer and is a founder of the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s
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Leader: Trump and an age of disorder

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions.

The US presidency has not always been held by men of distinction and honour, but Donald Trump is by some distance its least qualified occupant. The leader of the world’s sole superpower has no record of political or military service and is ignorant of foreign affairs. Throughout his campaign, he repeatedly showed himself to be a racist, a misogynist, a braggart and a narcissist.

The naive hope that Mr Trump’s victory would herald a great moderation was dispelled by his conduct during the transition. He compared his country’s intelligence services to those of Nazi Germany and repeatedly denied Russian interference in the election. He derided Nato as “obsolete” and predicted the demise of the European Union. He reaffirmed his commitment to dismantling Obamacare and to overturning Roe v Wade. He doled out jobs to white nationalists, protectionists and family members. He denounced US citizens for demonstrating against him. Asked whether he regretted any part of his vulgar campaign, he replied: “No, I won.”

Of all his predilections, Mr Trump’s affection for Vladimir Putin is perhaps the most troubling. When the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, warned that Russia was the “number one geopolitical foe” of the US, he was mocked by Barack Obama. Yet his remark proved prescient. Rather than regarding Mr Putin as a foe, however, Mr Trump fetes him as a friend. The Russian president aims to use the US president’s goodwill to secure the removal of American sanctions, recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and respect for the murderous reign of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. He has a worryingly high chance of success.

Whether or not Mr Trump has personal motives for his fealty (as a lurid security dossier alleges), he and Mr Putin share a political outlook. Both men desire a world in which “strongmen” are free to abuse their citizens’ human rights without fear of external rebuke. Mr Trump’s refusal to commit to Nato’s principle of collective defence provides Mr Putin with every incentive to pursue his expansionist desires. The historic achievement of peace and stability in eastern Europe is in danger.

As he seeks reconciliation with Russia, Mr Trump is simultaneously pursuing conflict with China. He broke with precedent by speaking on the telephone with the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, and used Twitter to berate the Chinese government. Rex Tillerson, Mr Trump’s secretary of state nominee, has threatened an American blockade of the South China Sea islands.

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions. The US constitution, with its separation of powers, was designed to restrain autocrats such as the new president. Yet, in addition to the White House, the Republicans also control Congress and two-thirds of governorships and state houses. Mr Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment will ensure a conservative judicial majority. The decline of established print titles and the growth of “fake news” weaken another source of accountability.

In these circumstances, there is a heightened responsibility on the US’s allies to challenge, rather than to indulge, Mr Trump. Angela Merkel’s warning that co-operation was conditional on his respect for liberal and democratic values was a model of the former. Michael Gove’s obsequious interview with Mr Trump was a dismal example of the latter.

Theresa May has rightly rebuked the president for his treatment of women and has toughened Britain’s stance against Russian revanchism. Yet, although the UK must maintain working relations with the US, she should not allow the prospect of a future trade deal to skew her attitude towards Mr Trump. Any agreement is years away and the president’s protectionist proclivities could yet thwart British hopes of a beneficial outcome.

The diplomatic and political conventions embodied by the “special relationship” have endured for more than seven decades. However, Mr Trump’s election may necessitate their demise. It was the belief that the UK must stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US that led Tony Blair into the ruinous Iraq War. In this new age of disorder, Western leaders must avoid being willing accomplices to Mr Trump’s agenda. Intense scepticism, rather than sycophancy, should define their response.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era