Ken Livingstone and Oona King go head to head in Enfield

First published in News by

KEN Livingstone and Oona King went head to head in Edmonton last Wednesday to win over the Labour electorate.

Around 120 people turned up to hear the former London mayor and former MP for Bethnal Green and Bow debate their policies at Broad House, in Fore Street.

The pair are competing to be the party's candidate for the 2012 mayoral election and topple incumbent Boris Johnson from his post.

Answering questions from the audience, the candidates agreed on several issues - including encouraging bicycle riding, increasing police enforcement, promoting cultural integration and severly reducing London's carbon footprint.

Speaking about the mayor's new scheme for public bicycles in London, due to come into effect on July 30, Mr Livingstone said it was a "very good" idea - and one he had first proposed before leaving office in 2008.

Ms King said she cycled to work from Mile End to Victoria "most days" and strongly supported the scheme, but voiced concerns the blue cycle lanes may not be visible at night and the bikes may be unsafe due to their heavy weight.

She added: "I think the mayor should inspire people to get on their bikes."

When asked how to tackle increasing gang crime, Ms King said enforcement needed to "radically increase".

"I would rather young people were stopped and searched than shot and stabbed," she said.

Mr Livingstone pledged to protect Enfield’s police officers by opposing cuts to forces and protecting London's 630 Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNTs). His term in office, he said, produced "record numbers" of police officers in London and an SNT in every borough.

He added: "Enfield’s 21 SNTs are vital to the police and community’s work to make the streets safer.

"If I was elected mayor I would guarantee the future of every SNT in Enfield and across London.”

Mr Livingstone would also increase the power of the mayor over policing, he said, to give it more direction, and try to reduce school exclusions, which be believed encouraged criminality.

When asked how to improve racial integration, the former mayor argued for more devolution of power from the Government to a local level. "This is where black and ethnic minorities will engage," he said.

"If we are going to engage hundreds of thousands of people, we must be allowed to innovate and experiment. We might need a different approach in Enfield to Bromley."

Ms King described this as "one of the big issues" and believed the solution to "changing hearts and minds" lay in community links between organisations in the voluntary sector.

She wanted to jail fewer under-25s for sentences under a year and shift this money into community schemes designed to cut reoffending.

The candidates disagreed on Post Office privatisation - Mr Livingstone opposed it, while Ms King side-stepped the issue, saying steps had to be made to "make sure it has a future" as very few people sent letters anymore.

They also differed in their attitude to the Coalition's public spending cuts. Ms King said fighting them was ineffective "fantasy politics" and instead supported building "real world" partnerships with employers and the Third Sector - like one in Newham brokered between the council, local college and job centre.

This, she argued, would be a way "to reach beyond the core vote and build local Labour bases, showing that we can do good things on the ground".

Mr Livingstone said the cuts would "devastate lives of Londoners like they did in the Eighties" and advocated dropping Trident, splitting cuts and taxes 50:50 and cutting MP's bonuses.

He also supported more apprenticeships schemes to fight unemployment.

"I won an apprenticeship at the NHS," he said. "That's how I learnt the skills I failed to get at school."

The Labour mayoral candidate will be selected by an electoral college made up half of votes by London party members and half by members of affiliated organisations.

The result will be announced on September 24, 2010.

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