UK sees political slugfest ahead of London mayor poll, Brexit vote

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: May 02, 2016 20:20 IST
Britain's Labour Party candidate for Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (R) looks at Conservative party candidate Zak Goldsmith during a hustings event in London on March 23. (REUTERS)

Most Britons enjoyed the long sunny bank holiday weekend, but not politicians, who were out on the streets, in television and radio studios, or penning special articles ahead of Thursday’s elections – using even the July 2005 London bombings for influencing voters.

As Boris Johnson said ‘I’m off’ in his last column in The Daily Telegraph on Monday as the London mayor, some flayed Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith for using a photograph of July 2005 bombings in a tabloid article attacking his rival, Labour’s Sadiq Khan.

The article was titled: ‘On Thursday, are we really going to hand the world’s greatest city to a Labour party that thinks terrorists is its friends?’ It prompted a rebuke from senior Conservative leader Sayeeda Warsi.

The holiday weekend also saw a heated televised debate between leaders in Scotland, which also goes to the polls on Thursday. There were clear hints that Scotland could seek another independence referendum if Britain votes to leave the European Union on June 23.

Campaigning moved seamlessly between the EU referendum and Thursday’s local elections as Prime Minister David Cameron admitted in a magazine interview that Johnson’s decision to join the Brexit camp had affected their long friendship going back to Eton and Oxford.

It was also frustrating that Justice secretary Michael Gove had also joined the Brexiters, Cameron told ‘Glamour’ magazine. “I’m still friends with Boris, just perhaps not such good friends…I think they have made the wrong decision, but they’re politicians and they have to decide.”

Still trailing Khan in opinion polls despite Labour’s anti-semitism row, Goldsmith was hard put to burnish his Indian credentials during an interview with RCN TV in which he claimed enthusiasm for Bollywood, but could not name a favourite film or actor.

“Let me think … No I’m not going to give you one. I can’t think of a favourite…I love almost everything about Bollywood. I love the atmosphere, the colour and I love the excitement. I want as much Bollywood as possible here in London as possible,” he said.

Criticising Labour leader Ken Livingstone’s record as London mayor and painting a grim scenario if Labour wins on Thursday, Johnson wrote: “It will turn into a war between City Hall and Whitehall – of the kind that Ken Livingstone used to love in the 1980s – and it will be a fiasco”.

“When I came to City Hall eight years ago, I turfed out a load of semi-Marxists who luxuriated in taxpayer-funded Châteauneuf-du-Pape while specialising in the kind of Lefty grievance politics that divide the city. Whatever Khan may now say, that gang will come back with a Labour victory”.

“If Labour wins on Thursday, I confidently prophesy that Livingstone will be back in City Hall within a week”.

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