Vote Berry... and Livingstone!

Ken Livingstone may be far from perfect, but Boris Johnson would be a disaster for London

Today I announced my recommendation for a "Sian 1, Ken 2" vote for Mayor of London this year, and here I want to explain why.

I’ll start by making it clear that Ken Livingstone is not my first choice for Mayor of London. I am my first choice for Mayor of London - more than anything London needs a real Green Mayor. But voters in this election do have two votes on the Mayoral ballot paper, and the way in which my supporters use their second votes could well be decisive on 1 May.

London faces a double threat in the next 43 days. First, we have the threat of Boris Johnson. As Mayor, he would prove to be a disaster for London, even on his own. But second, we also have the threat of a Tory monopoly over London.

For the past four years, Ken Livingstone has had to negotiate and compromise, because he has had to win votes from another party to pass his budget. Each year, the Greens on the London Assembly have driven a hard bargain and we have made significant progress in a number of social and environmental areas.

Boris Johnson, in contrast, would come with a built-in Tory majority, enabling him to do anything he likes over the heads of a powerless opposition in the Assembly.

And the truth is that what Boris Johnson likes is not what you or I like. He doesn’t share Londoners’ values; in fact in many ways he seems to hate them.

He hates that we celebrate each other’s heritage; he hates that we are trying to pass on a healthy environment to our children; he hates that we look after our most vulnerable neighbours; and most of all he hates that we all expect to share in our city’s financial success. And if he is elected he will do his best to dismantle and destroy all of that.

He stands for scrapping affordable housing requirements and abandoning higher charges for gas guzzlers. He opposed the minimum wage and the Kyoto treaty. He has tried to hoodwink London over airport expansion and he was a cheerleader for the war in Iraq. Johnson is no joke, and I cannot bear the thought of London under his cruel and careless control.

I’ll be the first to admit that Ken Livingstone isn’t perfect. I am, after all, standing against him and am deadly serious about wanting to replace him. I have spoken out on a number of occasions about my reservations. The Thames Gateway motorway bridge remains a dreadful plan that he won’t give up, and at hustings I’ve repeatedly expressed my concerns about his plans for jobs and economic development.

But he has shown again his willingness to negotiate over this last point and, under tough questioning from Green Assembly Member Darren Johnson at Mayor’s Question Time last week, he made new commitments to look again at how we can develop new industries in London to meet the challenges we face in the future, rather than rely solely on the financial services industry for our prosperity.

And despite all Ken Livingstone’s faults, the fact remains that putting Boris Johnson in charge would be so much worse.

London Greens share my view. So, as a party, we have decided to recommend that our supporters give their second vote for Mayor to Ken Livingstone not Boris Johnson. And of course we also welcome Ken Livingstone’s recommendation to his voters to give their second votes to the Greens.

So, if you care about having a fair London – socially and environmentally – and you want a Mayor who is accountable, not uncontrollable, you should vote for more Greens on the Assembly, then vote for me first for Mayor and use your insurance vote for Ken Livingstone.

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