Lib Dems take a battering in West Hampstead

London Elects released the results of the mayoral and assembly elections by ward yesterday. A bit of number crunching later and here are the percentage of votes and change from 2008 for the four local Camden wards (West Hampstead, Fortune Green, Kilburn and Swiss Cottage).

What can we deduce from the data? Well, nothing that we didn’t know already in the sense that the Lib Dems (who have six local councillors – three each in Fortune Green and West Hampstead) took a hammering as they did across the city and across the country.

It is reasonable to take the London-wide assembly member vote as the fairest reflection of party support as it is relatively devoid of the personality politics that beset both the mayoral race and the Barnet & Camden constituency race.

The Lib Dems polled better locally than they did across the city as a whole, taking 10.8% of the vote compared to 6.8% across London. However, if we look at the drop from 2008, the picture is very different. Across London in 2008 the party polled 11.4%, while locally it managed 17.8%. So the percentage point drop locally from 2008 to 2012 was 7 percentage points (or 60.6%), while the percentage point drop London-wide from 2008 to 2012 was 4.6 percentage points (or 59.6%). So even where the Lib Dems are relatively strong, their support was actually worse in this election. This is not surprising, after all it is Lib Dem voters who will feel most aggrieved at their party’s record in coalition.

In most other regards, the local voting patterns were not so different from those across the city: Boris was more popular than his party, while Ken was less popular despite being from this part of London.

The next council elections are still two years away, and the longer-standing Lib Dem councillors in Fortune Green and West Hampstead may feel that their personal stock will still be high enough to secure their seats even if the party continues to struggle nationally at the ballot box. Whether all three seats in both wards will stay yellow, however, must surely be in some doubt.

Boris in, Brian out

The votes from both Barnet & Camden and Brent & Harrow constituencies were counted at Alexandra Palace on Friday. Sadly it seemed no-one mentioned that to the construction crews working on the historic building. The result was a power cut early in the day, which held up counting. Then, at the end of the day, a couple of ballot boxes from Brent turned up containing damaged papers and these had to be counted by hand. It was already clear by this stage that incumbent mayor Boris Johnson was going to beat Ken Livingstone, but Brent is die-hard Ken country, so there was always that slimmest of slim chances. After all, at the Hampstead & Kilburn vote in 2010, it was boxes arriving from Brent that gave Glenda the late and very very narrow victory.

In the end, although Ken got 6,500 more second preference votes than Boris in Brent & Harrow, BoJo’s overall winning margin across London was fairly comfortable.

We don’t have the ward breakdown yet for Barnet and Camden, so I can’t tell you how West Hampstead’s vote compared to that in 2008, but across the two borough here are the results

A couple of notable stats: Barnet & Camden gave more 2nd preference votes to the Green Party’s Jenny Jones than to any other candidate, and voters here also gave Boris less than 400 more second preferences than independent Siobhan Benita. Nevertheless, Boris was more popular in Barnet & Camden than he was across London as a whole. So, a good night for the Conservatives? Not entirely.

As was widely reported, Barnet & Camden’s London Assembly vote was between Conservative Brian Coleman and Labour’s Andrew Dismore. There was a strong campaign to oust Coleman, and indeed his sizeable majority was completely reversed as Labour saw a 14 percentage point swing in their favour as Coleman’s vote fell away.

The CNJ’s Richard Osley was at Alexandra Palace but neither he nor any other journalist could get an interview with Coleman, who arrived for the count but vanished before giving a speech.

Farewell Brian.

The election stats from 2008

For the final part of my pre-election coverage, here’s a breakdown of how West Hampstead and the wider Barnet & Camden constituency voted last time around for the mayor, our local Assembly Member, and for the London-wide assembly member.

First up – the four Camden wards that make up West Hampstead (sorry Brent folk, but you can access all the data).

What does this show us? Well, a fairly strong Labour showing, even in Swiss Cottage, which came down in favour of Boris overall. Despite the Lib Dems’ popularity here as councillors, Paddick’s performance was pretty poor and roughly in line with the London-wide result.

Across Barnet & Camden, you can see the full breakdown on three separate sheets. The Conservatives took all three ballots fairly comfortably – showing the relative weight Barnet has over Camden in this inner/outer London constituency

What are we voting for?

Tomorrow is election day in London, but what are we voting for and how do we vote? I’ve had a few queries about this, especially from people new to London for whom this is their first City Hall election, so here’s a handy guide. If you want to know more about the candidates or their policies, then read my guide to the Mayoral election, and the Barnet & Camden Assembly Member election.

Here’s how it works

Mayor of London
This is the pink ballot paper.

The Mayor of London is elected by supplementary vote. This means you can vote for two candidates in order of preference:

  • Vote for your first choice candidate by marking a cross (X) in the first choice column
  • Vote for your second choice candidate by marking a cross (X) in the second choice column
  • You must mark a first choice, you can choose not to mark a second candidate
  • If you mark only a second choice your vote will not be counted
  • If you give the same candidate your first and second choice, only your first choice will be counted

If a candidate receives more than 50% of all the first choice votes they are elected immediately. If this does not happen (which it won’t), the top two candidates with the most first choice votes go through to a second round. All the ballot papers where another candidate was first choice are then reassessed to tally up second preferences. Second choice votes for either of the top two candidates are added to the totals for those two candidates from the first round. The candidate with the highest combined total of first and second choice votes will be elected as Mayor of London.

What does this mean in practice? Most pundits call this as a two-horse race between Ken & Boris, so if you want to vote tactically, consider that if you vote for either of those two as first preference then your second vote is unlikely to matter. If you want to vote for another candidate first, then voting for either Ken or Boris second probably makes sense. The Green Party, for example, would prefer you to vote Green first, and Labour second. Or, vote for who you’d actually like to see as Mayor – surprises do occur, and this sort of voting sends a clear message to City Hall as to what people’s concerns are.

In 2008, every single ward in London voted either Boris or Ken first, but almost all of them voted Brian Paddick as second preference. As he wasn’t in the top two however, this counted for nothing. The maps below, along with other cuts of the voting data, are from The Guardian.

A fairly clear inner/outer London divide

“And it was all yellow”: 2nd preference votes in 2008

London Assembly – Constituency members
The London Assembly consists of 14 constituency members who represent different areas of London, and 11 London-wide members. In West Hampstead, we are in the Barnet & Camden constituency, those of you the other side of Kilburn High Road are in Brent & Harrow.

This is the yellow ballot paper

The constituency election is first past the post. Simply put a cross against the name of the candidate you’d like to represent you in the London Assembly.

London Assembly – London-wide members
This is the orange ballot paper

The 11 London-wide Assembly Members are elected using a form of proportional representation. 

  • You can cast one vote for the party or independent candidate that you would like to have a London-wide Member seat on the Assembly. 

You can see the full list of parties here. You don’t vote for a specific candidate within each party. Each party will have its own internal list – lets say that Labour wins three London-wide seats, then the top three names on Labour’s list will be elected. You can see on the list I’ve linked to that the first names under the main parties are established London politicians like Nicky Gavron and Caroline Pidgeon.

Votes from across London for the London-wide Assembly Members are added together. The 11 seats are then allocated based upon a mathematical formula (the Modified d’Hondt Formula since you asked). This takes into account the total votes cast in the London-wide ballot together with the number of Constituency London Assembly Member seats that each political party has already won. It is a bit complicated to explain, but basically 11 rounds of calculations take place to fill the 11 London-wide Assembly Member seats, and the party or independent candidate with the highest result at each round is allocated the seat. Seats won by parties are allocated to party candidates in the order they appear on the relevant party’s list of candidates.

What does this mean in practice? It’s pretty straightforward really – vote for the party you’d like to see have as many seats as possible in the Assembly. You might, for example, want to see Boris as mayor but think that having more Green Assembly Members would be a good balance. Or perhaps you think Brian Paddick’s crime policies make him the ideal mayor, but a strong Labour presence in the Assembly might help address some of the other social problems facing the city.

There’s loads more information on all this at the London Elects site.

Polling stations in Camden are open from 7am to 10pm. if you can’t find your polling card, you can find your polling station by postcode. Note that your polling station may not be the one physically nearest to you, as they’re broken down by ward and sub-ward.

Barnet and Camden: the end of the road for Brian Coleman?

As well as electing the next Mayor of London this Thursday, we also get to vote for who represents us on the London Assembly. There are 14 constituency Assembly Members and 11 London-wide members elected based on proportional representation.

In West Hampstead, our constituency is Barnet and Camden, and that means we have to choose between incumbent Brian Coleman (Con), Andrew Dismore (Lab), Chris Richards (LD), Audrey Poppy (Green – with a name like that, had to be), and Michael Corby (UKIP – or “Fresh Choice for London” as they’ve somehow managed to get themselves billed in the official London Elects brochure).

Do we care about who speaks for us at City Hall? Assembly members don’t have a great deal of power, you can read the official line as to the role of the Assembly. The thrust of it is to hold the mayor to account, campaign on various issues, and potentially get involved in large-scale planning issues. One might argue it’s not that important, although one could imagine that if the Assembly was dominated by the same party as the Mayor’s, then there might be a little less scrutiny.

As for the candidates, well, it’s fair to say that Brian Coleman is a controversial figure. I’m not going to list the litany of criticisms that he’s faced – the very fact that there’s a website called “101 Reasons to Sack Brian Coleman“, gives you an indication of his unpopularity in certain circles. From racking up extortionate taxi bills at the taxpayers’ expense, to dismissing perfectly legitimate questions out of hand, this is one elected official who doesn’t kow tow to his voters.

Coleman (left) aiming lower than erstwhile H&K candidate Chris Philp

He’s spotted in West Hampstead from time to time, chatting up small business owners or generally waving the blue flag around election time, but he’s really a Barnet politician (and erstwhile Mayor of the borough). He famously dislikes bloggers. During the general election one Tory aide asked me in front of him whether I’d like to interview him. We answered in unison; him with a pithy “I don’t do bloggers”, and me with a marginally more polite “No thanks, he’s not that interesting to our readers at the moment”.

He objected to both the 187-199 West End Lane development and the Abbey Area development proposals before they went to City Hall but clearly his objections carried little weight as both were passed without amendment. I asked (at very short notice) two of Camden’s Conservative councillors to tweet me a reason to vote for Coleman. Gio Spinella’s reply: “[he has] a proven track-record of sound and firm management with London’s Fire Brigades and one undeniable virtue: with Brian Coleman you will always know where you stand. He won’t equivocate or pander.” Which is probably about as diplomatic as you can get.

Coleman has been in trouble with Barnet council three times this year already. “The council’s standards committee upheld complaints from two members of the public that he had been disrespectful in a series of email exchanges, including one in which he said a lobbyist would have been a member of the fascist Blackshirts 70 years ago,” reported the Barnet & Whetstone Times. Then on April 4th, he is alleged to have called a resident a “twat” and told them to “clear off” during a cabinet meeting open to the public. This wasn’t in response to some abuse, it was in response to a question on the closure of Friern Barnet Library.

I try quite hard to be non-partisan on this blog, but I find it very hard to endorse any politician who appears to have such disdain for his constituents. Or as respected London political commentator Dave Hill puts it, “Coleman personifies vividly a comedic suburban affrontedness rarely found outside of television sitcoms. The spectacle of someone completely in the grip of his own, inexhaustible indignation provides an unexpected intellectual satisfaction.”

Andrew Dismore is a former MP (for Hendon, 1997 to 2010). He’s thought to have a real chance of beating Coleman, especially if Labour’s support in Camden holds up and enough Tory voters decide that they’d rather elect someone who didn’t call the fire brigade union members “thick” (one of Coleman’s three public jobs is as Chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority).

Dismore’s experience in Westminster puts him in good stead for the Assembly. While an MP, he chaired the London group of Labour MPs, and was a strong advocate for decent affordable homes – a critical requirement for London both now and in the future.

It’s true that Dismore had his spending come under scrutiny during the MP expenses scandal although he was subsequently cleared by the Committee on Standards in Public Life. Nevertheless, he is almost certainly the only credible competitor to Coleman, and he certainly talks the talk:

“My reputation as a councillor and as an MP was of someone who worked hard for his constituents, and I will do the same as your assembly member. I will be visible, active and engaged. I will not be like the present Conservative incumbent AM, who in the three years since he was last elected, has not written once to the police to raise Safer Neighbourhood Team staffing and deployment issues, nor to Transport for London to raise the Northern Line upgrade, the strategic bus network, or cycling issues, nor to senior Camden council officers about anything at all.”

What of the other candidates? Lib Dem Chris Richards may be Bromley-born, but he’s a Camden boy now, so those of us in the southern reaches of the enormous Barnet & Camden constituency might feel he has more to offer although he lacks the political experience and gravitas of Coleman or Dismore. I can’t find anything about the Greens’ Audrey Poppy except that she came 4th in the 2005 general election in Chipping Barnet. UKIP’s Michael Corby wanted to be the party’s mayoral candidate, and he sets out his stall in this video. The Barnet Eye has an interesting take on the role UKIP could have played in this election: given Coleman’s unpopularity with some voters, UKIP might have expected to pick up votes here, which would have helped them secure seats in the Assembly based on the proportional representation formula. However, Corby has been the “invisible man” in this election.

Coleman does appear, for the first time, to be running scared. Last Friday he apparently went round local shops in High Barnet that had put up anti-Coleman posters and bullied shopkeepers into removing them. One shopowner said, ““He was going mad and shouting. He was right in my face and wouldn’t leave when I asked him. He was intimidating.”

When you go to vote for the mayor on Thursday, don’t automatically tick the London Assembly box that corresponds to your general party affiliation. Have a think about the role of Assembly Members, which is more consultative than executive, and about the type of person you believe should represent you.

London Elects: Groundhog Day?

This Thursday you’ll have the chance to vote for the next Mayor of London. I expect most of you know this.

You will also have the chance to vote for the next London Assembly member representing the constituency of Barnet and Camden. I expect quite a lot of you didn’t know that.

Lets get the mayor out of the way first and deal with the Assembly election in the next post. This is largely a rehash of the last mayoral election, with Boris Johnson (Con), Ken Livingstone (Lab), and Brian Paddick (LD) all standing again. It’s the first time Jenny Jones (Green) has run for mayor, but she was deputy mayor under Ken Livingstone in 2003/4.

Boris, Ken, Brian and Jenny

Why should the 2012 result be any different from 2008? Well, Boris has had four years in office, so to some extent this is a referendum on how well he’s done. Ken meanwhile beat Oona King to the Labour nomination, but having been Mayor for two terms already does the electorate feel he’s had his time to shine? Paddick – who only polled 9.6% first preference votes in 2008 – can’t help but be tainted by the Lib Dem’s fall in popularity since the coalition agreement. Jenny Jones, who has been a London Assembly member since 2000, could be a surprise package this time around, but few pundits are predicting anything other than a straight two-way fight between Boris and Ken. There are other candidates: the inevitable UKIP, BNP and independents, but none have even a distant shot at taking City Hall.

The campaign has been pretty negative so far – a lot of energy is being expended on why you shouldn’t vote for the other candidate – whether it’s because Ken channeled money into a private company to (legally) reduce his tax bill , or whether it’s because Boris supports flights of fancy such as cable cars across the Thames, while being accused of failing to tackle knife crime.

All the negative campaigning makes it hard to get excited about the election at all frankly. What are the key issues in West Hampstead, and what do the main candidates have to say about them? I met Brian Paddick a few weeks ago to get his perspective, which is very heavily skewed to the issue of policing and crime (he’s a former Asst. Commissioner of the Met in case you’ve never heard him speak). In advance, I asked my twitter followers for their main concerns: crime did figure, as did housing, and to some extent transport – and these are really the key concerns across the city I think. The mayor doesn’t have a lot of say over the broader economy or the NHS for example.

Lets take a look at the key policies on these areas.

This has been one of the biggest bones of contention between Boris and Ken – has Boris cut police numbers or hasn’t he? According to The Guardian,

“Johnson’s campaign is correct in claiming that police officer numbers have risen over his term, albeit only by 2.4% if you take the baseline to be the March 2008, closest to when he was elected in May. But Labour is right that since 2009, the last year that Livingstone budgeted for, numbers have fallen overall by 1.17%.” 

Read the full analysis to decide for yourself whether there’s a left-leaning Guardian bias there. I don’t see it personally.

Boris: “[I will] deliver a massive boost to Safer Neighbourhood Teams, with an additional 2,000 police, including adding up to three police officers, to every team. Each team will also get three Special Constables to further boost police presence in our neighbourhoods.” Read more at

Ken: “If I am elected, I will reverse [Boris’s] cuts. And I will reinstate sergeants to all 600 Safer Neighbourhood Teams, more of which will be beefed up to a minimum of nine officers.” He makes policing one of his “top two” priorities alongside cutting fares. Read more at

Brian: “We will guarantee 33,500 police in the Met by protecting local neighbourhood teams from the current Mayor’s cuts and putting more police on the streets in communities most at risk from gun and knife crime.” He also advocates the so-called “Paddick patrols”, consisting of “community groups such as residents and tenants associations patrolling in groups to prevent crime and be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the police.” Read more in Paddick’s full manifesto at

Jenny: “We will put more officers on the beat focused on important areas such as road safety, not unnecessary surveillance. We will rebuild trust in the police, especially amongst the young.” (crime is the fifth on her list of five-point plan for London). Read  more at

On crime, perhaps only Paddick stands out as having distinctive ideas. He told me that he thinks there are too many specialist officers now and numbers need to be rebalanced in favour of normal front line police. I suggested he was a single issue politician, which he rejected, claiming it was easy to stereotype candidates and he had gone to Oxford and had an MBA and a commercial career before the Met. Nevertheless, when I asked him why I should vote for him, his answer revolved entirely around his crimefighting credentials and crime and police leads his manifesto.

The new mayor will have substantial new powers over housing in the capital. It may not be an issue of immediate concern for many Londoners, but for those for whom it’s critical, or for people who understand its long-term relevance for the well-being of the city, the candidates’ housing policies should be of major import. For an overview of the big three candidates’ policies, I’d suggest watching this BBC London interview, but what can we learn from the manifestos?

Boris: It’s notable thought that housing doesn’t crop up at all in Boris’s manifesto. In fact it appears he doesn’t have any new policies at all, which given the new powers and budget seems extremely strange.

Ken: “My focus will be first, to drive down costs and drive up standards across all housing tenures including those who rent from private landlords, those who rent from social landlords and those who own, or are buying, their own homes. As a priority, I will help reduce the price and improve standards of private rented accommodation by establishing a not-for-profit lettings agency that saves tenants and landlords money by avoiding rip-off estate agents’ fees, and creating a Tenants’ Charter that sets minimum standards for rented accommodation. No-one should have to spend more than a third of their earnings on rent and we will develop the case for a London Living Rent.

“Second, I will address the long-term housing crisis we simply have to build more new homes and they need to be affordable to ordinary Londoners to rent or buy. That means making maximum use of land controlled by the Mayor for housing development, and enforcing tough planning regulations so that private developments reflect the needs of all Londoners.” Read more in Ken’s full manifesto.

Brian: “We plan to build 360,000 homes over a decade and will create a new ‘living rent’ standard, so that Londoners’ rent costs should aspire to be no more than one-third of their take home pay. We will work with all London boroughs to restart council home-building and aim for half of all new homes built in London being in the Social and Intermediate sectors by supporting boroughs with the best legal advice to negotiate tough agreements with developers. A London Housing Company would act as a vehicle to assemble public land and match it with private investment, and offer smaller housing associations the ability to raise loan capital through a London Housing Bond. We will create an extra 40,000 homes in the spaces above shops and bring 50,000 currently empty homes back into use.” Read more in Brian’s full manifesto.

Jenny: “Our 10-point plan manifesto pledges to build at least 15,000 new homes a year, and refurbish over a million to help reduce energy bills. We have also committed to reduce rents and provide greater security for private tenants through five-year contracts and the establishment of an ethical lettings agency. We also pledge to help families by making sure 40% of new homes are family-sized, help cooperatives build more homes by establishing a London Mutual Housing Company and helping to set-up Community Land Trusts, end rough sleeping and ensure no one has to spend more than one night on the streets by centralising money for homelessness services in London, campaign against government attacks on housing, campaign for reform, including land value taxation and a ban on foreign investors.” Read more in Jenny’s housing manifesto.

I asked Brian Paddick about planning, as he had commented in passing on the 187-199 West End Lane development. He said that he would ensure that “development density doesn’t adversely affect an area, and he would seek to preserve the nature of local area.” I’m not sure what that means in practice really, but he added that “one of the most important aspects of West Hampstead is its character.”

For many Londoners this is a huge issue, and one of the few areas where the Mayor has real power as TfL falls squarely under the Mayor’s remit. There are clear distinctions here between the four candidates.Fare structures are always a headline issue. Boris pleges only to “ensure transparency and honesty over fares policy”. Ken simply says he’ll cut fares by October or resign. Under Brian fares will be restructured (and the one-hour bus ticket is surely a good idea that all the candidates should introduce bringing London in line with most major cities), and under Jenny they are guaranteed not to exceed inflation.

Boris: (quoted from his manifesto but stripped of rhetoric) “I will cut delays on the Tube by a further 30% by harnessing new technology and introducing new working practices to ensure problems are fixed urgently. I will reverse the last Labour Government’s decision to stop Londoners getting their Freedom Pass at 60. I will pave the way to the first driverless (although not unmanned) trains within a decade by accelerating a programme to introduce automation on the Tube. I will also ensure that TfL never orders a new train for London Underground with an old fashioned driver cab. I will argue our case for a minimum turnout rule which will prevent union leaders calling strikes with a minority of supporters. I will support the extension of the Docklands Light Railway to Bromley.”

“I will launch a Congestion Busting Plan, including funding for immediate improvements to London’s worst congestion hotspots. I will use the income from Lane Rental, which will tackle road works, to ease the congestion they cause. And I will enact the first comprehensive review of the road network for a generation, with detailed plans to end London’s worst congestion points – seeking improvements for drivers, bus passengers and cyclists. I will also expand our hugely successful Cycle Hire scheme to many new parts of Greater London.” Read more in Boris’s transport manifesto.

Ken: I will cut fares by 7% this year and freeze them throughout 2013. Oyster single bus fares will be reduced from £1.35 to £1.20. From 2014 fares will not rise above inflation.” Here’s the maths that shows how he’ll pay for it. He argues that over his 4-year term, the average Londoner would be £1,000 better off under his fare scheme compared with what would happen if Boris was in charge.

He continues, “I will provide bus services that reflect passengers’ demands for easier travel in the suburbs; offer new ways for bus users to report problems by phone, text and smartphone, and display them online along with TfL’s responses; deal with the roadworks and accidents that cause the majority of bus delays; work with borough councils to identify the main congestion points and bring forward bus priority measures to speed up bus passengers’ journeys; bring forward plans to make all bus stops accessible – there is no point having ramps on all buses if they can’t be used at some bus-stops; improve training for bus drivers to provide passengers with a more comfortable journey – particularly ensuring all older passengers are seated before the bus moves off; and save tens of millions of pounds by cancelling the Tory Mayor’s ‘new bus for London’.”

He also pledges to “work tirelessly with transport bosses to ensure that passengers come first and the Tube upgrade programme is carried out with the minimum of disruption to people’s busy lives; bear down on Monday morning over-runs; and deliver Tube improvements more quickly by ensuring that TfL spends the capital funds allocated to it. I will also ensure that more of the Tube is made accessible to everyone, from people struggling with luggage, to older and disabled Londoners.” Finally, Ken would introduce a one-day 2-6 ZoneSaver card.

On the roads, “I will cut congestion through SMART parking [using apps to find parking spaces]; focus on roadworks; and enable more Londoners to have access to car clubs.” He also has details on his cycling strategy, with a stated focus on road safety – a hot topic right now. For more, read Ken’s full manifesto

Brian: On fares, “Our package of fare reductions will concentrate help where it is most needed: Early Bird discounts for Tube, TfL rail and DLR travellers using the network before 7.30am; a One Hour bus ticket allowing people to hop-on and hop-off buses as you can on the Tube and rail – paying only one single fare; a part-timers’ Travelcard using Oyster technology, so people regularly travelling three days a week can get
the sort of discounts provided by the weekly travelcards; One Day outer London Travelcard. We will review all the fare zones across London so passengers are not disadvantaged. We will end the scandal of Oyster overcharging, and where it does occur, make it far quicker and easier to get a refund. 

“We will speed up work to increase capacity through ‘block closures’ [on tube lines – i.e., closing sections of lines for a couple of weeks, rather than doing weekend work] and bring forward schemes for ultra light rail, tram and additional buses in badly served areas and on overcrowded routes. We will create a London Transport Bond to raise additional investment funds, open to ordinary Londoners, so they get a good return on their savings as well.

“We will give holders of Oystercards a real say in how their network is run just as big companies have to answer to their shareholders, by using existing contact details to consult through email and phone-in votes. We will make a ‘Big Switch’ so all London’s buses and taxis, and most commercial vans run on electricity by 2020, to cut running costs and clear up polluted air, with a clean air zone for central London such as cities like Berlin enjoy. We will pedestrianise parts of central London – from Trafalgar Square to Oxford Street – and run a ‘summer streets’ scheme, like New York.” Read more in Brian’s full manifesto.

Boris, Ken and Brian all want to take control of suburban rail services.

Jenny: I will guarantee fare rises do not exceed inflation and provide greater investment to improve services and reduce overcrowding, raise money for public transport, reduce congestion and improve air quality through a ‘pay-as-you-go driving’ scheme to replace the arbitrary congestion charge. I will clean up London’s buses, converting the entire fleet to low emission hybrid, hydrogen or electric models by 2016. I will introduce 20mph speed limits on all roads where people live, work and shop, and create more pedestrianised areas to create safer and more pleasant streets for those on foot or bike. I will help more Londoners cycle by providing clear, dedicated, safe spaces for cyclists on main roads and dramatically increase training for children.

Cycling is a major – indeed separate – policy for Jenny. You can read much more about it at Ken, Brian and Jenny all refer to the cycling culture in The Netherlands as a blueprint for London.

Who to vote for? Have a read of the manifestos, and see what you think. The candidates have plenty to say about other topics, I’ve just highlighted three of the biggest topics. Clearly, the mayor is also a figurehead role, so someone who you feel represents you and this great city may be more important than party affiliation. It feels like a sadly uninspiring line-up this time around. As I waited to meet Brian Paddick in a Primrose Hill café, none other than playwright Alan Bennett walked in. It’s a shame someone of his stature isn’t standing.