Slap in the face

Writing the day after the Brent East by-election – I’ve got to gloat!

It was a victory of momentous and portentous proportions for the Liberal Democrats. And a severe slap in the face for Ken in his old seat and for Tony (you can trust me) Blair.

The aftershocks are being felt deep in both Labour and Conservative enclaves – while both parties examine why they failed so badly.

It’s not rocket science. On the doorsteps in Brent, it was clear people were sick of being duped into going to war on false pretences, even those who supported the war.

The voters of Brent East showed quite emphatically that the electorate is fed up with lies, fed up with spin, fed up with broken promises, fed up with a government that hasn’t delivered on public services and fed up with a Labour council that can’t even clean the streets.

And as for the Conservatives – to lose even more of the vote, to go from second to third when you are supposed to be the official opposition in a by-election mid term of a Labour government, has to strike fear into Tory hearts.

IDS’s statement that winning Brent East was a bad strategy for the Lib Dems demonstrates why so many people in other parties hope he hangs on as leader.

Even at the GLA – even before the election – we knew that a win was on the cards. I have seen many displays of ill temper from Mayor Livingstone – but none as vituperative and inappropriate as his attack on the Lib Dems at Mayor’s Question Time on the morning of the Brent East by-election.

He used this opportunity to launch a tirade on us and our campaign. Of course, now we know why – he must have known that the writing was on the wall for his old parliamentary stomping ground.

He accused us of all sorts and predicted a LibDem majority because of ‘dirty’ tactics. A dirty tactic in Ken’s book is having the temerity to fight to win.

I did have one smidgen of sympathy for him the next day though – on polling day his article in the Guardian warned that the Tories might win Brent East. Now there’s a mayor who is in touch with what people are thinking!

Ken didn’t have much love for us before Brent East’s dramatic fall – now he hates us. He was truly nasty – and if you have never had the pleasure of seeing the Mayor in full flow, you would be shocked.

No more the cheeky chappy formerly so loved by London’s electorate. No more the loveable (not by me) oppositionist underdog fighting big nasty Tory Government/Labour Government. Here was the Mayor unmasked and unplugged.

It was the second time recently he had lost the plot and lost his rag. The first was at budget committee where he accused the Assembly Members of corruption and blackmail.

This accusation levied because of his anger that the Assembly was daring to do some polling of its own, with full cross party support, on a number of issues.

He claimed we should work together with him so as not to duplicate any questions. This is the Mayor who has refused to share information, carried out his own polling month in month out and refused us access to the questions on the grounds that it is private advice to the Mayor. Well – what’s sauce for the goose…

And he’s not one to let truth get in the way of a good rant. If you are a student of body language – you can always tell when he’s lost it. His lower lip trembles and curls resentfully.

What this augurs for the London elections for Mayor and Assembly next year is the stuff that dreams are made of. Simon Hughes certainly looked very happy at the count – and so he should.

Whilst the other parties make the best they can of black Thursday claiming that you can’t take anything from a by-election – it doesn’t wash. The elections next June 10 for Mayor, Assembly and Euro MEPs – Super Thursday as we Lib Dems have dubbed it – will be a real fight. And that’s good for London and good for politics.