Darren Johnson will contest the 2004 London mayoral election for the Green Party

Darren Johnson

Darren Johnson is Leader of the Green Party Group in the London Assembly, and has again been selected to run as the Green Party's Candidate for Mayor in the 2004 elections.

Joining the Green Party in 1987 at the age of 20, Darren has played a very active role in Green politics over the past 16 years, and is now one of the party's best-known figures.

One of his key areas of policy interest is planning, where he has been involved in a number of high-profile campaigns to save threatened open spaces. He also has a major interest in transport, and has given strong support to the introduction of congestion charging.

Having chaired a major inquiry on nuclear waste trains for the London Assembly, Darren Johnson is an outspoken critic of the nuclear industry.

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This is an archived article published in June 2004
Small relief for Labour as
Livingstone wins in London

After a humiliating day in the local elections in England and Wales, where they became the first party in government nationally to come third in the number of votes cast, Ken Livingstone provided some relief for the Labour Party as he retained his London mayoral seat.

His overall percentage of the vote after first and second preferences were counted was 35.7 per cent, while his Conservative rival Steve Norris got 28.2 per cent, with Liberal Simon Hughes third on 16.8 per cent

The nature of the elections on 10 June 2004 was underlined by the success of single issue protest parties.  The anti-Iraq-War coalition, Respect, polled 6.2 per cent and the United Kingdom Independence Party, opposed to the UK’s membership of the European Community, got six per cent.  The far right British National Party edged the Greens by three per cent to 2.9.

Of some significance is the outcome of the London Assembly elections which took place in parallel to the mayoral election. The Conservatives are now the largest party, having held on to their total of nine seats, including taking the seat of Lord Toby Harris, the outgoing Leader of the Labour Group on the Assembly and the Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority. Labour lost a total of two seats, down to seven.  The Liberal Democrats have five and the Greens and the UK Independence Party have two each.

In spite of Mr Livingstone polling 11 per cent more in the mayoral race than his party did in the Assembly, this will restrict his freedom of movement.  The Assembly’s role is to monitor the mayor’s proposals and the new make-up may cause the mayor difficulties. Full results

Liberal Democrats and Greens explain
their alternative visions for London
Early press coverage of the 10 June 2004 London mayoral election focused on Mayor Ken Livingstone's decision to rejoin the Labour Party and Conservative Steve Norris' links to big business. Meanwhilem however, Simon Hughes and Darren Johnson, for the Liberal Democrats and Greens respectively, have spelled out their alternative visions for London.

While Labour and the Conservatives, representing as they do the two major parties nation-wide, also had the largest number of seats in the Greater London Assembly (nine each), the Liberal Democrats and Greens, with seven seats between them, are in a strong position to hold the balance of power. Also, in view of the transferable vote system, where second choice votes can favour smaller parties, the policies of the two less fashionable mayoral candidates will affect the overall results, even if they don't win themselves.

Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Simon Hughes, a Member of Parliament for a south-London constituency, has been announcing policy initiatives in areas such as local tax, crime prevention, policing and transport.

He told City Mayors that Londoners' Council Tax (local tax) had doubled in the past four years with Mayor Livingstone's 'I spend now, you pay later' policies. He accuses Ken Livingstone of spending £20 million of taxpayers' money on self-publicity, including 16 press officers solely for the Mayor's office, and £18 million spent on advertising the Mayor. Mr Hughes says he would spend this money on front-line police officers to increase Londoners’ sense of security. He also points out that 16 of the UK's worst 20 black spots for abandoned cars are found in the capital - a sign, he claims, of the Mayor's lack of interest in people's surroundings.

The Liberal Democrats are also calling the Electoral Commission to investigate the Mayor's declaration of donations to his Electoral Campaign. Their spokesperson told City Mayors that Mr Livingstone had so far failed to publicly declare donations to his mayoral campaign.

Mr Hughes believes it highly likely that the Mayor's re-election campaign was being funded by trade unions who have a direct interest in his functions as Mayor: for example, the RMT (railway union), which negotiates salary and terms with the Mayor in his capacity at Transport for London. Paralleling that scenario is the difficulty of the Conservative candidate, Steve Norris, who holds a senior position on the board of Jarvis, the company entrusted with railway track maintenance.

On the congestion charge, Mr Hughes announced his proposed changes. While agreeing in principle, he wants to encourage shoppers back to London and to make any extensions more accountable to local people. He also wants to introduce block purchasing and pre-pay tickets. He specifically opposes the proposed expansion into Kensington and Chelsea, a wealthy London borough to the west of the West End, the city's principal shopping, theatre and restaurant area.

Darren Johnson's Green Party sees itself as further left than the Labour Party, although it regularly uses its three seats with Labour against the nine Conservatives, leaving the four Liberal Democrats with the balance of power. Mr Johnson alone of the four main mayoral candidates is also standing as an assembly member, and the Greens hope to win the balance of power. With some voters unwilling to back Ken Livingstone now that he has rejoined the Labour Party, the Greens could benefit.

Mr Johnson's policies consist of cutting expenditure so as to be able to reduce Council Tax. He told City Mayors that by slashing spending on road building, propaganda, and waste and increasing congestion charging revenue, a Green Mayor could double spending on pedestrian and cycling schemes, double spending on the bus improvement programme and double the environment budget. "The Green budget would actually result in a rebate of 3p per week rather than the increase of 33p proposed by the incumbent Mayor," Mr Johnson claimed.

Mr Johnson contrasts the current spending of £2.8 million per year on the Londoner newspaper, which is sent to every household, with the spending only £1.3 million on protecting London's environment, in spite of the Mayor's legal responsibilities to implement strategies on air quality, waste, biodiversity and noise and to reduce London's greenhouse gas emissions.

While the Tories are against the congestion charge in principle, and the Liberal Democrats oppose any expansion until the teething problems have been ironed out, the Greens' Darren Johnson has announced his plans to extend the scheme to cover the whole of London.

He told City Mayors that as Mayor he would want to introduce three separate zones for, respectively, central London, inner London and outer London, so that the benefits of congestion charging are spread to every community.

Mr Johnson also attacks the Mayor's expansion plans. He claims the new plans for road building, substantial airport expansion and new office accommodation and reliance on growth in the financial sector are not the way to help ordinary Londoners.

"There is no point in extolling the virtues of affordable housing if it is not matched with affordable jobs. Of the 636,000 new jobs the Mayor is projecting in his London Plan, 454,000 are earmarked for the business and financial sector," Mr Johnson said.

"Who seriously believes that the promised new jobs in financial services are really going to help the poor and unemployed of East London? More likely, they will attract even more wealthy commuters into London from the South East and beyond," the Green candidate added.

Darren Johnson's London plan would include:

· Economic development that values economic diversity and protects local economies and small businesses, as well as ensuring that all vital public services are within walking distance for everyone

· Improvements to public transport - no more road building

· Protecting London's natural environment, and not building on sites of nature conservation value

· Policy objectives that reduce the need to travel, reduce traffic and improve local accessibility

"London needs a more imaginative approach that values economic diversity and local economies, rather than being almost wholly dependent on the financial services sector, whose performance over the last twenty years has been based on a boom then bust scenario. We need economic sustainability that helps improve the quality of life for all." More on the London election 2004
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