PPP (Supplementary) [16]

Session date: 
July 18, 2001
Question By: 
Angie Bray
Organisation: 
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

We on this side have watched with interest the arguments toing and froing between former Socialist allies. Londoners watching all this would say, "A plague on both your houses." They just want it to get going; all these details are Byzantine so far as they are concerned. I feel that everybody's patience is running out while the two of you argue away.

I want to return to the point made by Andrew Pelling. I have to say, Mr Livingstone, that a lot of people were incredibly disappointed that you put your old political allegiances ahead of championing Londoners' interests during the general election campaign. You may say breezily that, at best, Labour might have lost a handful of seats, but they clearly did not see it that way. That is precisely why they were at pains to get Mr Kiley on to their board - to buy off your opposition during an embarrassing time. They clearly thought it was serious.

You bought into that, which I think was letting Londoners down badly, when you could have held them to account on this matter which you claim is so terribly important. You did not think it was that important during the election campaign. I remember putting it to you just before the election started that this was just a temporary arrangement to save Labour any embarrassment, that you had bought into it, and that it would all unravel afterwards - as, indeed, it has. That allowed a lot of important messages to go astray.

My question to you on that is this: when you went out campaigning with Labour candidates during the election, did you bother to ask them whether they would be prepared to support you once it all unravelled afterwards? Do you think that those Labour candidates, who are now Labour MPs, are indeed going to support you in this?

Supplementary To: 

Answer

Answer for PPP (Supplementary) [16]

Answer for PPP (Supplementary) [16]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

In the first place, I do not think that Londoners say, "A plague on both your houses." The latest opinion poll shows that 90% of Londoners support the stance that Bob Kiley and I have taken on this, and there is negligible support for the Government's PPP.

We come back to this question of what I should have done during the election. The election was not just about the Underground; it was about a whole range of issues. I had a choice in London not between PPP and no PPP but between a Government led by Tony Blair and a Government led by William Hague. I have a lot of complaints about Tony Blair's Government and I shall continue to make them, but they are infinitesimal compared with the complaints I would have had about a William Hague Government. You know as well as I do that I am absolutely convinced that it is essential for London's economic success that we should be a part of the euro, and there is no doubt whatsoever - he is very honest about this - that that would never have happened under a Hague Government. If that was the only point of difference, it was enough for me to say that William Hague's Government would not have been fit to govern Britain.

Equally, given the emphasis on an £8 billion tax cut, with the rumours of perhaps £20 billion - I suspect that would not be enough for Eric; he would probably want £50 billion - there was very little chance of a Hague Government giving the GLA and local government in London, including the boroughs, the sort of public investment we need.

So, yes, I will continue to argue with Tony Blair about the Underground, but on a whole range of other issues we are making good progress. The Government are working closely with me on the congestion charge. They have laid the parliamentary instrument which will allow the scheme to go ahead. There is a whole range of other issues on which we are in a good dialogue. We are rather in the position that we have decided that the PPP is an unpleasant, stinking corpse in the corner of the room that we pretend is not there, while we get on with the other business.

I think that is best for London as well. We will have a court decision next week, and one of us will have to accept defeat; but on all the other issues - resources for London, devolution of more powers, education funding - we are making good progress with the Government, and my personal relationships with Stephen Byers will not be affected by the outcome of this case. It would be bad for London, and damaging for resources we expect to get, if I allowed this to become personal.