Lynne Featherstone

MP for Hornsey and Wood Green

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Night thoughts

I went through the night with Mike Mendoza last Saturday. No, it’s not a new man in my life – he’s the presenter of the most listened to night radio show.

LBC sent a car for me at half past midnight. Yep – even the Chair of Transport at the London Assembly has been known to give in to the motor car! And I was entirely grateful to do so on this occasion. Going out after midnight is an exciting but long ago forgotten experience.

It was a phone in. First up was what I thought of the Tory Shadow Home Secretary, David Davies, and his support for bringing back capital punishment.

I thought it was a clear sign that the temporary euphoria of getting rid of IDS was already evaporating to expose the real old-fashioned true nature of Tory politics. Hang ‘em and flog ‘em!

Next – did I think Simon Hughes should have replaced Susan Kramer as the Liberal Democrats’ mayoral candidate?

Yes I did. Sue is a friend and was an absolutely fabulous candidate in 2000. But once Simon put his hat in the ring, it was clear to the party that he could actually win the Mayoral contest – not just do a good job.

North Southwark and Bermondsey have returned Simon as their MP six times. And I know why – door-knocking there for him in the 1997 election, every door that opened seemed to have a resident who would say “Oh yes – Simon. He’s a lovely boy! He ‘elped me grandmother. He ‘elped me husband when we was in trouble…” and so on. He is much loved there. He is charismatic and he has vision.

Did I think that the shenanigans between Mayor Livingstone and Labour Mayoral candidate Nicky Gavron were bringing the mayoralty into disrepute? Yes, I did. It’s not that long ago that Tony Blair virtually declared Livingstone the devil incarnate. Leopard and spots are the words that TB should remember.

Indeed, at the very moment of his possible readmission to his beloved Labour Party Mayor Livingstone has (as usual) metaphorically dropped his trousers in public to embarrass Blair by his anti-Bush pronouncements and actions. How can TB reconcile Labour policies – pro-Bush, pro-PPP – with the Mayor’s avowed opposition (an opposition in this case that I endorse)?

All the talk of letting Livingstone back into Labour is just a rather desperate and sordid power play – Labour are scared of seeing Nicky Gavron finish an embarrassing fourth and so will do any sort of deal to avoid that.

It’s just the sort of clever-boys fixing that turns people off politics. Livingstone’s position isn’t much better – why is he so keen to rejoin a party responsible for so many policies he says he deplores? Principles seem in short supply all round.

Now while we’re on Bush – questions and comments poured in. So: no I didn’t think it was an appropriate time for President Bush to be invited on a State Visit. It had an aura of triumphalism which, given the situation, left a nasty taste. Exit strategies may get our joint troops out in due course but what we leave behind is still in question. By the time you read this the visit will have come and gone, and I hope that Bush was able to hear the demonstrations – to understand at first hand the very real and deep feelings that run through all stratas of our society.

And there were questions on congestion charging, rickshaws and cabbies, policing and racism – and so on. It was the most fun I have had in media terms for ages, and who knows – if I ever get booted out of politics, I wouldn’t half fancy a radio show!

Fri 21 November 2003
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