London Citzens Mayoral Election Hustings (LIVE BLOG)

Huffington Post UK  |  By Posted: 25/04/2012 18:17 Updated: 25/04/2012 22:18

With eight days to go until London choses its next Mayor, one of the largest public hustings has taken place in Central London.

It's the largest live audience the candidates will face in the whole campaign, and it's been organised by London Citizens, a cross-London interfaith organisation which encourages Londoners to engage with politics. It's been running for more than 15 years and started off in the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Hackney.

Huffpost was liveblogging from the event - the proceedings can be viewed below.

Click here or scroll down for the points of the evening



Video streaming by Ustream

The questions put to the Mayoral candidates were posed by ordinary Londoners, gathered through a series of door-knocks throughout the city over the past few weeks.

Ruhana Ali, one of the community organisers based in the East End of London, told HuffPost that it was the toughest hustings for the Mayoral candidates.

"They're really feeling the pressure this time around, because of all of the scandals that have happened in politics," she says.

"It's not one of those events where they're given a free reign to do a spheel, they're being directly held to account on the policies that Londoners want."

Ali believes the race will be incredibly tight, and her experience suggests there're a lot of fickle, floating voters who haven't made up their mind.

"We're a broad-based alliance of different organisations, encouraging people to work together for the common good. We're going right into the heart of the neighbourhoods, and in areas you'd think would be quite Labour, or kind of given, people have mixed opinions about Labour, and the same for Conservatives. But people are engaging with this election more than any other election. They know it's going to be a close one, and every vote counts this time.

"We've got different issues in east London compared to the things that come up in west London, but one of the things that unites everyone is a social justice agenda. London's very particular and very special, people feel they're Londoners and care about things that happen in their capital."

Well on the strength of the applause in the room, Ken Clearly had the room with his pledges to cut tube fares. Jenny Jones was punished for being honest on the night, Boris got the most laughs as usual, but not the thunderous applause his Labour rival had.

Brian Paddick did quite well, but used his free time to urge people to vote Lib Dem in the London assembly - acknowledging that he will not win the Mayoralty.

It's been quite an amazing night, though, very inspiring and quite emotional.

The main impression you get from Boris is that he's finally woken up to some home truths about how Londoners feel. Maybe it's a coincidence that Britain went back into recession on the same day, but suddenly the narrative from him has shifted on to jobs and away from other things.

Another nice thing about this event was that the candidates had to address a crowd and be accountable, and were not allowed to attack each other. That's been the main problem with this campaign, and it's turned people off.

Politics should be like this a lot more often.

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People seem to like this idea.

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Brian says anyone with anything to do with City Hall , including subcontractors , pay the London Living Wage.

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"I am committed to the biggest social house building programme this city has seen in a generation, ensuring the rents are at 40 percent of the market rate.

"I believe all Londoners should be able to rent a home for no more than a third of their salary."

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Gasps of horor in the room...

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She cleans in a hotel, and it's basically piece work - she gets £3 per room, and isn't paid an hourly rate. If she's tired, she gets paid less because she cleans fewer rooms.

It's hard to believe this is still going on.

She says at the end of the week, after taxes and travel costs, she has £50 left for food and everything else.

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Boris is saying he is "best placed to get the cash from central government" among all the candidates.

He says "I want to be the Mayor that unites London, cares, cherishes and supports London.

"If I am spared by the electoral reaper, I want you to know how much I have loved working with you and hope to work with you over the next four years."

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I see no reason why the whole of the FTSE 100 should sign up to the London Living Wage, and all of Whitehall.

Boris is asked if TFL will give up advertising space for London Living Wage Week, and he says yes, "As long as the adverts are sensible."

Who decides what is sensible?

"A very sensible committee at TFL," Boris replies.

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This is one of London Citizens' agenda items.

Boris gets a reasonably good cheer, but it's by no means as big as the one Ken had.

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Boris is told to stick to the agenda as he talks about his agenda, not London Citizens' agenda.

But he says he has a "geyser of enthusiasm" for London Citizens' agenda.

He pledges to create 32,000 a year, creating 104,000 jobs. He wants to "get young people in our city ready for work", saying he doesn't want to create jobs if young Londoners cant do them.

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A lady who's a recent graduate is explaining why she had to sign on a fornight ago, despite applying for dozens of jobs.

She asks the 2,500-strong audience to raise their hands if they have been told recently, "Sorry, there were just too many applicants."

It's quite staggering how many people raise their hands - about 1 in 10 people.

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Ken says look at President Obama, who has created growth and jobs because he refused to make cuts in public services until the economy had recovered properly.

He wants to keep young people in education and restore EMA in London - to huge cheers.

"There's a huge debate about who is to blame for this mess, whether it's this government or the last government. I think we've had the wrong turn for thirty years. We used to look after each other, there wasn't this obsession with money, we took more pleasure from our friends and our workmates.

"When I left school in 1966 every single kid in Brixton job.

"We've got to make certain our financial institutions serve the needs of our whole community, not just obsess about the wealth they can make for themselves."

Massive applause from the crowd.

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Ken says the London Living Wage is one of the things he's proudest of, and says the London authorities will not deal with anyone who does not pay it.

There are big cheers for Ken's pledge to cut the tube fares.

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Ken says he will establish a stakeholder relations team so more people can get access to City Hall.

He says there are two things the coalition have done he supports, giving the Mayor more power of police and housing.

"I will make central to my four years at City Hall a programme of 300,000 homes"

He also wants to clamp down on introductions fees for letting agents and bad landlords who don't conduct repairs.

He says the housing crisis in London is a "nightmare", and pledges that every single building under the control of the Mayor will become a City Safe Haven.

"There is a crisis in the relationship between London and its police. We need to rebuild that trust."

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"We have refused to let this story end with a tragedy, this is a triumph to overcome violence," the mother of a boy stabbed to death yards from a police station in south London.

The hall, which has been noisy for the past hour, falls totally silent as this lady manages to get through her speech, controlling her emotions.

She goes on to talk about the riots, and how the creation of City Safe Havens have enabled people in her area to "reclaim the streets"

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She says she would not give free travel on the tube to students, which attracts some boos. She says she would focus instead on making travel more affordable for everyone.

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She says the Green Party has common goals with London Citizens, saying she has pressured Boris every year on the London living wage. "How they exist, how they survive, they have no idea."

She says London puts too much power in the Mayor - "and other undemocratic institutions," says London has "the most dysfunctional housing system in Britain."

She pledges to put co-operatives at the heart of London housing policy, set up bodies to help the Community Land Trust, will build at least 15,000 "genuinely affordable homes" every year.

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She gets a big round of applause as she talks about her plans for housing, young people, the living wage.

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They are being asked whether they will commit to extending free travel for young people on apprenticeships and work to make the London Living Wage a bigger success.

The candidates now have to answer - and are not allowed to 'waste time attacking each other'

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He says there is a lot more work to do but he has proud because...

  • The teenage murder rate in London has halved
  • He claims there are 1,000 extra officers on the streets
  • We have expanded the London Living Wage to include Local Authorities & Olympic contractors

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Boris is told by community leaders of his achievements, and where they feel he has fallen short.

- He has improved governance of City Hall - He has created 'City Safe Havens'

- He's been an 'enthusiastic chamption' of the London Living Wage.

However:

- Boris hasn't used the GLA and LDA bodies to promote the London Living Wage.

The London Living Wage is a voluntary level set at £8.60.

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He'll now get some questions from various community leaders from around London..

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We're now hearing how this is the fourth Londoners' Assembly - and much of it will be on holding Boris Johnson accountable.

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As each quadrant of London outlines what they've been doing to improve their communities, people from each quadrant in the audience are asked to stand up. It's almost a rally-style atmosphere, and it's very inspiring.

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Paul O'Shea, one of the founding members of London Citizens, starts off the event by asking everyone for mutual respect and mutual courtesy.

There is to be no booing or shouting from the hall.

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It's got an X-factor style introduction video with the same music that starts that show. Instead of glamorous judges, we're going to get mayoral candidates. Mustn't grumble.

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A choir of London children are singing M People's Proud. It's lovely. Hopefully it'll set the tone for a good-natured debate. We could do with one of those.

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They say this is the biggest live audience the candidates will face - they're going to get a series of questions about crime, cohesion, promises for young people.

We're not going to reveal the questions here, so it's a nice surprise for the candidates.

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It's time for the candidates in the London Mayoral election to face 2,500 of their potential voters at a major hustings in Westminster.

We're going to be here with live updates. It kicks off at 7:00pm, and the organisers hope this will be the toughest test for all the candidates.

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