If the polls so far are anything to go by, this year’s London Mayoral election is shaping up to be a photo-finish. Boris and Ken, as their big personalities allow them to be known, are the rival heavyweights who both have experience in the role. However, former senior Met Police Officer Brian Paddick (Lib Dem) and London Assembly Member Jenny Jones (Green) both bring a different perspective to the old two-party rivalry.
The IoD offered an exciting stop on the campaign trail by jointly organising an animated debate for the four key candidates on 15th March. The event was held at ‘magic circle’ law firm Allen & Overy in the City, and was hosted by the IoD and other business groups. Sixty IoD members, most of them Policy Voice panellists, were part of the 300-strong audience. Given the organisers, the venue and the specially invited audience, the key theme of the hustings was ‘business’.
Representatives from micro-businesses right up to large multinationals listened to the candidates set out their policies for the London business community before the hustings was opened up to challenging questions from the floor. Transport, taxation, immigration, planning, trade unions, crime and the Olympics dominated the agenda. The importance of maintaining London’s position as a global city, and one that encourages enterprise, emerged as universal priorities for the audience.
The debate was dynamic and good-humoured. Boris Johnson was frequently told off by the Chair, Samira Ahmed from the BBC, for over-enthusiastically interrupting opponents. At one point Ken Livingstone bypassed answering a question because he agreed wholeheartedly with Boris and didn’t want to waste audience time. Brian Paddick joked about Livingstone’s tax arrangements, and Boris’ “obsession” with the new Routemaster bus because, “like his home, it has two staircases and three entrances”. Entertaining stuff, but the importance of the policies being discussed was never forgotten.
The candidates stayed for a time after the debate to speak to audience members and journalists, and the event was covered by BBC London 10 o’clock News, as well as local and national print press. IoD members played an integral role in putting business firmly on the Mayoral agenda in the lead up to election day (3rd May).