Labour promises more scrutiny of Boris

By Rob Virtue on May 9, 2012 10:22 AM |

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Mayor Boris Johnson is celebrating his re-election but he can expect some heavy flak coming his way from London Assembly members throughout his next term.

The Conservative candidate edged past Labour's Ken Livingstone in last Friday's vote for the capital's top political post.

However, he lost his deputy Richard Barnes and fellow blue Brian Coleman in the election of assembly members.

That led to Labour taking 12 of the 25 seats, with the Conservatives claiming nine and Lib Dems and Greens getting two seats each.

Comparing it to Mr Johnson's first term when he had the Conservatives were the majority party at City Hall, Labour member for City and East John Biggs believes the mayor will have a far less easy ride.

"It means more lively debates in the assembly, more time for dissenting voices against the mayor and I think, given that he was only elected because he stood against the Tory party on many issues, it begs a very severe question about whether he'll be able to deliver on some of the promises he made," said Biggs just after the election. "It will be a more vociferous and effective challenge."

Mr Biggs, who comfortably held his seat with an increased number of votes in last week's election, added: "Interestingly I've a bigger majority in east London than Boris Johnson has across the whole of London and I think that tells us something about the strength of feeling in the part of London I'm elected to represent.

"He needs to make sure that London is not split into a city of two halves and there's a great risk with these Government's policies that may happen."

His election and the failure of Labour colleague Mr Livingstone to win the mayoral vote represented a bitter-sweet night for former leader of Tower Hamlets Council Mr Biggs, who will now stand for his fourth term at City Hall.

A staunch critic of Mr Johnson he said hr and his fellow Labour members' priority for the next four years must be on protecting the poorest from cuts.

"I'm really humbled by the support that's been shown," he said. "But I'm not going to let it go to my head as fundamentally it's people voting for Labour's programme for our policies because of the pain that's being caused by the recession on east London. We desperately need a change of direction and I will fight to help to achieve that and to mitigate the problems people are suffering."

Talking about Mr Johnson's victory, Mr Biggs criticised the election campaign which he says was dogged with negativity.

The 54-year-old said this meant important policy issues were sidelined.

"If we're going to have elected mayor's then personalities will be an important part of that and it's important Londoners elect someone who's got confidence and personality but I'm worried about the level of negative campaigning - trying to pull the other candidate down - which doesn't help the democratic process in the long run," said Mr Biggs.

"Clearly if there are just grounds for criticising a candidate that's fine but if you're trying to scrape together arguments about the character of someone and it detracts from the really important issues for Londoners then that's not helpful for democracy."