22 May will see European Parliament elections, local elections across London and elsewhere, and the vote for Lewisham's directly elected mayor. I hope to blog on all of those, but this post focuses on the mayorals in Lewisham. [UPDATE: Extra info on how to navigate the supplementary vote system and who to put second here.]
Here are the seven candidates, and some comments on them.
Liberal Democrats: Duwayne Brooks @DuwayneBrooks
My impression of Duwayne Brooks is of a smart, charismatic, passionate, decent person. His main campaign theme seems to be that it's time for change in the borough, with Sir Steve Bullock (see below) having been in office for too long. Probably he is the candidate that has the best chance of unseating Bullock: the Lib Dems came second with 25% of the first round vote in 2010. However, his campaign material overstates this by dishonestly including the second round vote (including transfers from Tory votes) in a bar chart purporting to show that Tories can't win in Lewisham.
The main reason not to vote for Duwayne, however, is that he is a candidate for the Lib Dems. However, you'd not notice that from his Twitter feed or website, which barely mention his party affiliation if at all, which is not surprising given what a liability it must be around here. Who could vote for the party that has enabled the Cameron government's austerity regime and dismantling of public services? Who could vote for the party that utterly failed to stand up against Jeremy Hunt's Clause 119, legislation drafted in response to the people of Lewisham successfully winning a legal challenge against his attempts to close our hospital? For these reasons, and more, we can expect the Lib Dem vote in Lewisham to have evaporated since 2010, making Duwayne a no hope candidate (and a vote for the Greens or a real left alternative at least as meaningful a protest vote as for Brooks).
Labour: Steve Bullock @mayorbullock
Sir Steve Bloke, as he's known, is the Gordon Brown of local politics: competent, gently intelligent, controlling, utterly un-charismatic. Having clocked up a longer term in office at the town hall than Thatcher or Blair did at 10 Downing Street, it's hard not to sympathise with the idea that it's time for change. In 2010, when Gordon Brown was unsuccessfully defending his tenure in Downing Street, Bullock got 44% of the first round vote (a majority of well over 20,000). Four years of Cameron/Clegg misrule, as well as Bullock's important role in the legal challenge against Hunt's attempt to close our hospital, will surely contribute to a strong Labour vote this month, so it's hard to imagine Bullock not romping home again.
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition: Chris Flood @ElectChrisFlood
Chris Flood is the candidate for the Socialist Party's front TUSC, possibly the least exciting left party Britain has ever produced. Flood had a decent record as a Socialist councillor in Telegraph Hill, during which time he played a major role in defending council housing and fighting hospital cuts - but he probably has little borough-wide profile. It's hard to see TUSC doing very well. In 2006, during the Iraq war, John Hamilton (see below) got 8.2% of the vote, and so at best Hamilton and TUSC might expect to compete for that fraction. Despite that, at the moment I'm thinking of voting for Flood, as Bullock's majority means a non-Labour vote is fairly risk-free, and I like the idea of showing Labour that they can't take its multicultural working class heartlands for granted in its rightward quest to conquer middle England.
People Before Profit: John Hamilton @PeopleB_4Profit
I've voted for Hamilton in the past (in 2006, when he got over 4,823 votes), but am not going to this year. Hamilton and his merry band are pretty indefatigable campaigners on a range of local issues: Hamilton was a key activist in the fights for a new school for New Cross, to save Ladywell pool from Labour cuts, and to save Lewisham's libraries from Labour cuts. I like what People Before Profit say in their election material. However, I have written about Hamilton a few times on this blog before, and regular readers will know why I can't vote for him: read posts on his disruption of Holocaust Memorial Day and on his involvement with the antisemitic Holocaust denier Gilad Atzmon (as well as his guest post replying to the latter). More recently, allegations have emerged on the internet about the business practices of his People Before Profit colleague Ray Woolford, which I won't repeat here because I have no idea if they are true, but which raise worrying issues.
Green: Mike Keogh @lewgreenparty
Mike Keogh, also standing for the council in Ladywell ward, won 12% of the vote in the 2006, but the Green vote shrunk by a few hundred to 6% in 2010, as the turnout increased and the Labour vote swung up. The Greens therefore have little better chance this year than the more left-wing alternatives to Labour, and interestingly the party website has nothing on the mayoral election, concentrating on the council elections where their results might be more interesting.
Simon Nundy (Conservative) @SimonNundy
If the Lib Dems have massaged the figures to claim only they can unseat Bullock this month, the Tories have been even more fast and loose with the stats. The fact is they only got 15% of the vote in 2010 and, while the Lib Dem vote will collapse, the Tory vote is likely to hit a long-term low here. Nundy's campaign rests on five "pledges", almost all of which are hollow promises.
- Pledge no.1 is a 5% reduction in council tax, which looks superficially appealing but will benefit higher rate payers the most, is too small to make that much of a difference to our personal finances, and will create a hole in local government finances that can only be filled by further cuts in already frayed services.
- His second "pledge" is offering every kid a place at a good or outstanding school - a good aspiration, but he promises to achieve it by expanding the "free school" programme, a programme which has been thoroughly discredited.
- His third "pledge" started with less a hollow promise than a bullshit promise: to work with Boris Johnson to get more police on Lewisham's streets - bullshit because Johnson has reduced the number of police on our streets dramatically (I asked Nundy about this on Twitter twice, but he declined to answer.) In his leaflets, he has since downgraded this to a meaningless promise: to create a "Mayoral Crime Liaison Office", whatever that means.
- The fourth pledge is to bring all social housing to decent homes standard. The standard was introduced by the Labour government and Labour Lewisham has spent millions bringing thousands of its homes to standard, but I can't find out how many are still below that standard - if anyone knows please leave a comment below.
- Finally, pledge number 5 is a "package of support for small businesses", but he has been very vague on what such a package might include.