Boris and Ken's policy-free scrap

The campaigning for this year's London mayoral elections is completely devoid of serious politics.

How remarkable that "in a Labour-supporting city, after three weeks of cash-for-dinners, fuel fiascos, granny taxes, pasty taxes, third runways... when the Tories left no stone unturned in their efforts to lose votes", Ken Livingstone remains six points behind Boris Johnson in the polls, says Andrew Gilligan in his Daily Telegraph blog.

Ken's mistake was putting his tax affairs back at the heart of the London mayoral campaign by "lying that Boris, like him, had channelled his earnings through a personal company" to avoid tax (Johnson earned £1,290,870 over three years and paid £519,276 in tax and national insurance). Ken's weakness is his untrustworthiness. His policies may be more popular but become irrelevant if voters don't believe he will deliver.

What policies? asks Rachel Sylvester in The Times. This campaign is based "entirely on personality". "It's hard to think of a single serious proposal either candidate has put forward to improve London." Ken's proposal to cut Tube fares "lacks credibility", while Boris's Thames cable car is a "vanity project".

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"Even their own parties are embarrassed." Downing Street is helping Boris because the 3 May election will be seen as a verdict on David Cameron, but "there is no mutual respect". Meanwhile, Ken "horrified senior Labour figures with his comments on Jews and gays". Independent candidate Siobhan Benita is "far more impressive, thoughtful and original" but broadcasters' impartiality guidelines "require them to give air time only to parties with a proven track record".

It's "outrageous" Benita is excluded from so many broadcast hustings, agrees The Guardian. This election affects millions and so far voters have heard little about policy or vision. Its "highlights" are a "shouting match" over tax and "troubling" allegations about Livingstone's attitude to Jews.

Politics in London needs something "better than the established parties are offering". Boris and Ken aren't even that different, says Alice Miles in The Times. Boris acts the "bumbling, posh classical scholar" while Ken plays the "chippy Londoner" but both impressions are "constructed" to conceal "monstrously egotistical, arrogant megalomaniacs". This "faade... hides their almost total lack of substantial policy disagreements".

How strange that as Boris and Ken prove "the first casualty of mayoral elections may be serious politics", a "comfy consensus" has been reached on the merits of elected mayors, says John Harris in The Guardian.

Currently 14 mayors are elected in England and 3 May will see referendums on their adoption in 11 more cities. Yet there is no evidence that they kick-start economic revivals or increase political engagement. "If the narcissistic tedium that currently grips the London contest is anything to go by, sooner or later, you may well get the opposite".

Emily Hohler

Emily has extensive experience in the world of journalism. She has worked on MoneyWeek for more than 20 years as a former assistant editor and writer. Emily has previously worked on titles including The Times as a Deputy Features Editor, Commissioning Editor at The Independent Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, and she spent three years at women's lifestyle magazine Marie Claire as a features writer for three years, early on in her career. 

On MoneyWeek, Emily’s coverage includes Brexit and global markets such as Russia and China. Aside from her writing, Emily is a Nutritional Therapist and she runs her own business called Root Branch Nutrition in Oxfordshire, where she offers consultations and workshops on nutrition and health.