By Nathan Lee, Finance and Politics Correspondent
Five things Boris Johnson has claimed which were actually thanks to Ken Livingstone’s legacy.
I’m not a fan of Boris bashing per se, but as the UK’s most popular politician, it is remarkable how often he is placed on a pedestal for achievements that aren’t his.
Johnson is all publicity, no policy. He was the first to show up at the Olympic parade but the last to appear at the London riots. When he finally managed to tear himself away from his Canadian break to address one of the biggest uprisings in decades, he ignored the fundamental issues blighting London’s poorest suburbs and instead picked up a broom for the cameras in a moment of symbolism which would have evaded even him; these problems are not easily swept away.
There’s no doubt that our lovable, likeable Mayor wins the hearts of the uniformed for his tactful media relations, but surely it’s about time we decipher the things Johnson claims to have done but Livingstone actually did. There’s only ever been two Lord Mayors in London, and it was the one with London in his blood that has made the most of the position; not the one with politics and publicity at heart.
- Livingstone Bikes
Ken Livingstone didn’t ‘think of’ a cycle hire scheme in London, but he was in office as the process was set in motion. Lynne Featherstone is probably the most deserving person for the plaudits, submitting a detailed proposal as far back as 2001. One thing is for sure – and to Barclay’s utter disgruntlement – the blue rental cycles lining our streets should never have been dubbed after Boris.
- The Olympics
Boris Johnson was a fortunate recipient of the 2012 London Olympic Games. Ken Livingstone, however, was the figurehead for the capital when the right to stage the Games was won in 2005. Mr Livingstone told judges from the International Olympic Committee in Singapore: “The regeneration of the area around the Olympic Park is already under way. The Games guarantee this regeneration will create a community where sport is an integral part of everyday life.” Indeed, his vision for the east end of London is the reason places like Stratford look the way they do today.
- Oyster Cards
Oyster Cards are like a passport for Londoners. Not only are they remarkably efficient, but they are designed to give those on a low income an affordable path around the vast metropolis. The idea, conceived by Ken Livingstone, was rolled out in ’03 and grew in popularity as the Mayor encouraged National Rail to utilise the card along with others. An early campaign giving out 100,000 Oyster cards was remarkably successful. By June 2012, over 43 million Oyster cards had been issued and more than 80 per cent of all journeys on public transport in London were made using the card.
- Congestion Charge
The Congestion Charge in London was implemented by Ken Livingstone to reduce the amount of traffic in central London and curb emissions from vehicles. On introduction, the scheme was the largest ever undertaken by a capital city.
- The Environment
Boris hails his green credentials frequently, but his piecemeal strategies are frequently criticised, and for good reason. Ken Livingstone may be remembered as “an environmentalist and lover of newts”, but he made a notable effort to reduce London’s impact on the environment. He created the London Hydrogen Partnership and the London Energy Partnership, and initiated the Mayor’s Energy Strategy and supported the Thames Gateway Bridge.