It's with a heavy heart and a sense of foreboding I approach the London Mayoral election on May 1st. For those of you unfamiliar with the vagaries of the London voting system, every voter has two votes, a first and second preference.
This system has worked well in the past for Ken Livingstone, the Labour candidate now and in 2004 but an Independent in 2000. He picked up a lot of second preference votes from Lib Dem, Green and other party supporters. Conversely, the system has previously disadvantaged the Conservatives who picked up markedly fewer second preferences. Most second preferences went to the Lib Dem or Green or UKIP candidates last time but as these candidates weren't getting enough first preferences, it made no overall difference.
As a Lib Dem supporter, therefore, the vote that counts is NOT my first preference but my second preference. In 2000, I voted for Ken Livingstone as my second preference, in 2004 I voted Green as my second preference but what will I do on May 1st 2008 ?
My view is that Brian Paddick is far and away the best candidate on offer and I would recommend anyone reading this blog who has a vote in the London mayoral election to give Paddick your FIRST preference.
The choice for a second preference is far less inspiring but let's briefly consider the runners:
Richard Barnbrook (BNP) - may become the first BNP Council leader in 2010. Currently Opposition leader on Barking & Dagenham BC. Possibly one of the more politically astute candidates, but the BNP is socially authoritarian and economically illiterate so I couldn't vote for them.
Gerard Batten (UKIP) - senior member of UKIP and an MEP for London. UKIP fails to realise the relationship between the City, the rest of London and European financial institutions. A withdrawal from the EU would damage the City and London whatever other benefits it may bring. Not the right candidate at all.
Sian Berry (Green) - supports Green Left and is therefore an eco-socialist. The Greens of 2008 are not the cuddly environmentalists of 1989. They have become relentlessly authoritarian and could be better described as eco-fascists. The voting "pact" with Livingstone was the last straw for me - the Lib Dems are once again the only sensible environmental party.
Alan Craig (CPA) - the candidate most local to me as he lives just down the road from me in Canning Town. Became a Newham Councillor in 2002 and was third in the Newham Mayoral election in 2006. He is, however, a Christian Democrat and has taken a strongly anti-Muslim pro-Christian stance on a number of local issues. While I respect Alan's local record, I find his social policies illiberal and inappropriate in a cosmopolitan City like London.
Lindsay German (Left List) - has emerged from the wreckage of Respect as the candidate of the Far Left. Formerly a Trotskysist, she stood in West Ham in 2005 and got about 20% of the vote. Since the departure of Galloway, Respect has effectively imploded. Her left-wing politics do nothing for me.
Boris Johnson (Con) - I've said plenty about him. He is far too light-weight and inexperienced for this job. There are other Conservatives I might have considered giving my second preference vote to but he isn't one of them. His boorish attitude exemplifies much of what I dislike about the Tories and his performance on Newsnight was lamentable. Some Lib Dems might be tempted to vote for him to vote against Ken Livingstone. I wouldn't.
Ken Livingstone (Lab) - Again, I've said a lot about him too. A long-time London political operator, he took control of the GLC in a post-election putsch in 1982. Labour MP for Brent East but left the Labour party after a long-standing feud with Tony Blair. Ran as an Independent in 2000 for new London Mayoralty and won. After eight years, there is a sense in which his immediate circle is tainted with corruption. Back in the Labour party, he won a closer contest in 2004 but is now suffering with the rest of Labour. I would welcome his defeat though I would also acknowledge he has done much that is positive for London such as the Oyster card.
Winston McKenzie - a political chameleon having been a member of Labour, the Conservatives, UKIP and Veritas. He joined the Tories after David Cameron became leader but whether he expected to become the Tory candidate for Mayor I don't know. Since failing to get that nomination, he has gone off to become an Independent. I have no idea what policies he has (if any). Not for me.
Matt O'Connor (Eng Dems) - better known as the leader of the pressure group Fathers4Justice which has carried out a number of high-profile publicity stunts. The English Democrats, despite their fine-sounding words, are unpleasant nationalists with a strongly authoritarian streak. They would, I suspect, like nothing once than to break up the Union and have an independent England conveniently forgetting how well England has done out of the Union.
As you can see, with this rag tag of assorted dimwits, halfwits, nitwits and racists (delete as appropriate), Londoners like me have a spectacularly poor choice of Mayoral candidates.
I cannot, in truth, give any of the above my second preference so I face the reality of wasting my vote on May 1st. It's a sad state of affairs for me but it will be far worse for London whichever of these non-entities the people of London are stupid enough or angry enough to vote for (more ironic given that the turnout is probably going to be around 40%).