Poor Ken! He is lost in a mythical realm and loves perpetual opposition

Your special report on the London mayoral campaign ("Making waves in London", 10 April) and your leader ("The rise of the bastard vote") have reminded me how sorry I now feel for Ken Livingstone. I have watched his progress with interest and some admiration for over a quarter of a century. His "Fares Fair" policy was splendid and made a real difference to the traffic in London, where I lived and worked at the time.

But he is not really happy except in opposition. He shares this characteristic with many on the left; Will Self springs to mind. These poor souls cannot compromise and, as a result, any form of government is abhorrent to them. The British public, in common with nearly all other western Europeans, have consistently voted for liberal market-led democracy. This may well be because they have been duped by an evil set of media barons, but it remains a demonstrable fact. The kind of policies favoured by Ken and his like might suit a mythical state lying somewhere between Moscow and Paris where milk and honey flow through canals constructed by contented labourers. Unfortunately, they don't play so well in the world of real politics.

Poor Ken! What a dismal future he faces in politics. The only possible influence he can now have is to hasten the return of a Conservative government slightly to the right of the hated Thatcher regime. Still, I expect he might like that in a perverse way because he could then continue to clean up on the chat-show circuit. Is this fitting reward for his treachery to the party that has tolerated, nurtured and supported him for so many years?

Brian Hughes
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Your London supplement report on the mayor and assembly for London contained one major omission - the health of Londoners. If the Greater London Authority is to make a difference to quality of life, it cannot ignore the importance of a person's health to their well-being. That is why the legislation for the GLA eventually included a remit to promote public health across the range of policies for which it is responsible.

Londoners need to know what the candidates intend to do to improve their chances of a healthy life. Will they consider people's health needs when developing strategies for economic development, transport and the environment? If not, an opportunity to make life better in London will have been missed.

Rabbi Julia Neuberger
Chief executive, The King's Fund
London W1

This article first appeared in the 17 April 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - The rise of the ergonarchy