The Kernel has examined the candidates for London Mayor. Jason Hesse explains why start-up founders should vote for Boris.
The London Mayoral election is less than a month away. Candidates’ campaigns are heating up and mud is being slung all over the place. That’s partly because the election isn’t just about who will give you a cheaper bus pass or who promises to give the Metropolitan Police the resources it needs to cut more crime. Given London’s international position, the result of this election will also have global consequences.
The mayor will represent London to the rest of the world until 2016. This means the election has a much wider impact than just our city, chiefly because London is a major centre for the global economy: over 55 per cent of the UK’s FTSE 100 and over 100 of Europe’s largest 500 companies are based here. Even as a figurehead, the role is more important than is sometimes implied by other politicians.
So the question becomes: who would you rather represent you on the world stage? Boris or Ken? Because, let’s face it, this election is about one or the other. You can forget the other candidates – in particular the comic Lib Dem candidate, Brian Paddick. Brand Boris and brand Ken are too strong for anyone else to taken seriously at this point.
In our view, the choice for entrepreneurs is obvious: Boris Johnson should get your vote. Why? Because he is on our side. His nine-point plan, derided in some quarters for being a bit flimsy, may not have the most innovative and compelling specific proposals. But read between the lines and it’s unashamedly pro-business and pro-London.
Pledges include: cutting £3.5 billion of waste in City Hall; freezing the Mayoral share of council tax (saving each Londoner £445); creating 200,000 new jobs through home building, rail and tube projects; investing £221 million through funds to improve local high streets and support small businesses; reducing tube delays by 30 per cent; improving London’s transport infrastructure; and getting a better deal from Number 10.
On that last point, one of Boris’s key economic pledges is his controversial plan to lobby the Government to ensure that London can keep more of the tax revenue it generates. At the moment, £1 in every £5 collected in London is used to subsidise the rest of the country, and Boris would like more say in how that money is spent. He has already made some headway with this by winning a special £70 million development for London in George Osborne’s Budget last month.
Boris’s pledges are backed with numbers to show how he can afford them. Ken, on the other hand, has made at least £2.7 billion worth of unfunded campaign promises – so far. Ken’s grasp of numbers seems worryingly slight, especially when it comes to his personal finances, of which more in a moment.
Boris is unquestionably a better ambassador for London: a cleverer, more likeable man who projects optimism and quintessentially British good humour, as opposed to Ken, who invariably comes across as tired, grouchy and a bit slippery. (Half of Londoners view Boris as “charismatic”, while just 13 per cent say the same about Ken.)
Throughout the campaign, Ken has made bizarre and even racist assertions: Jews won’t support him because they’re too rich; the London riots would not have occurred if he’d been mayor; he would declare independence for London if elected. This is a man who will say anything to get elected. A divisive man sucking up to Islamic extremists in Tower Hamlets, as the Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan has exhaustively detailed, who does not represent the multi-national, multicultural business environment of London.
Ken did not hesitate to say that tax avoiders were “rich bastards” who “should not be allowed to vote”, but then was caught with his trousers down, having set up his own tax-avoiding corporate vehicle. As Boris poetically put it, Ken is a “fucking liar”. That seems self-evidently true, as anyone who reads Gilligan’s excellent blog will know.
Even the unions – traditionally on Labour’s side – have distanced themselves from Red Ken. Rail union leader Bob Crow has even threatened to sue Boris Johnson for associating him with Ken Livingstone on campaign posters, saying it is “offensive”, “malicious” and “defamatory”. That must have hurt. Perhaps the only reason the Labour party is giving Ken support is because Ken has them by the balls. Miliband needs the maverick Ken, even though he’s toxic.
If that sounds like more of a character assassination of Ken than an endorsement of Boris, well, that’s how popularity contests go sometimes. And Londoners seem to be in agreement: the latest poll by ComRes, published yesterday, shows that between the two candidates, Boris is pulling ahead, with 53 per cent of vote intentions compared to Ken’s 47 per cent.
But the number are still close. London-based start-ups can’t afford to ignore these elections, if they want their city to remain an attractive investment and relocation prospect for their funders, staff and customers. London will be the engine of recovery for the UK economy – but that is at genuine risk if London’s elects a numerically illiterate 70s era socialist ideologue. Vote for Boris.