• Josie Channer

GLA Campaign :Why is Bromley & Bexley so important ?

The Labour Shadow Cabinet came to Bromley to launch Ken Livingstone’s campaign for the Mayor of London. This might not have been a surprise to the residents of the GLA constituency of Bromley & Bexley, who, in recent weeks, have seen a lot of Ken. However with the Conservatives getting 52% share of the vote some might be wondering why Bromley & Bexley appears to be so important to Ken.

I’ve been campaigning in the outer London constituency for almost a year now as the GLA candidate. It is a mixed picture of suburbia, deprived estates like Thamesmead, but also “White Van Man” territory, containing many residents that have done well and moved from inner city Labour areas like Tower Hamlets. There’s a local saying that they ‘turn blue’ coming through the Blackwell Tunnel! There’s no doubt that there are pockets of Labour support in this constituency, but they didn’t come out and vote in 2008 and a wave of strong Conservative vote, combined with our voters staying at home in areas like Bromley & Bexley, Havering and outer London, tipped the elections away from us.

Local activists in the Bromley & Bexley area are energized, as they know that the work they do might decide the election. On the door steps early in the campaign I found the response disappointing with Labour sympathisers saying they were unsure whether or not they were going to vote at all. Some areas hadn’t seen a Labour canvasser in years and I guess when an entire area has been ruled out as untouchable for Labour it’s not going to be great on the doorsteps at first. The local activists and I have been working hard to get the message across that “even if you’re surrounded by a sea of blue” as I like to put it “a Labour vote matters here too”.

In recent weeks I’ve noticed a more positive response on the doorsteps. This could be the national situation with the Coalition cuts starting to hit home, their disastrous ‘Granny Tax’ Budget and their out of touch polices. However, I believe that Ken’s polices are now starting to get through and outer London suburbia is considering whether or not they might be better off with Ken. After all, who could be hurt more by Boris’ fare rises than residents in Zone 6?

Unlike in 2008, when some of our policies, such as the extension of the congestion charge zone, could seem a little out of step with outer London aspirations and mood, this time he’s spot on. In particular on Crime and Fares. 36 police officers have been cut in Bexley, while, at the same time, robbery is up by 25%. Boris gives the impression that he can be trusted to protect London and that he’s on the side of the police, yet he’s the one that’s been signing off on the cuts to our safer neighbourhood sergeants right across London.

Outer London commuters will be hit hard by Boris’s fare increases — the launch of the “£1000 Better off with Ken” in Bromley with the Shadow Cabinet is showing that actually Labour is more in touch with the needs of working families in outer London. Recognizing what a burden travel cost can be on the household purse goes a long way here.

With positive policies, such as the re-introduction of a London-wide EMA-type provision, a London-wide Letting Agency, which will support private renters, the “Better Off with Ken” slogan is hitting home in outer London at exactly the time when people here are feeling the pinch of the Coalition’s activities. We need the Labour voters here to realize the importance of their vote and to come out, whatever the weather, in areas like Bromley & Bexley!