The election campaign for mayor of London - the ballot is in May - promises to be the most personal, acrimonious and dirtiest campaign Britain has ever seen.
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The election campaign for mayor of London - the ballot is in May - promises to be the most personal, acrimonious and dirtiest campaign Britain has ever seen. To understand why, we have to go back to the early 1980s. At that time, the national government was in the hands of the Margaret Thatcher's Conservative party. The local London authority, however, the Greater London Council (GLC), was controlled by the Labour party. And its policies were making the government extremely angry. Under its leader, Ken Livingstone, it raised local property taxes and used the extra money to pay not only for reduced fares on public transport (free for pensioners) and public building projects but also for the activities of 'fringe' groups such as gays, lesbians, anti-racists and feminists. In fact, the government got so fed up that it decided to abolish the GLC. Most Londoners were against abolition. But the government, with the help of the national press, successfully demonised Livingstone as 'Red Ken', leader of the 'loony left'. And that was the end of the GLC. The following years saw the triumph of Thatcherism, with Labour in the wilderness. But now the story has come to life again. The present Labour party believes its national electoral victory three years ago was only possible because it distanced itself from those loony left days - that's why it calls itself 'new Labour'. So it did everything it could to stop Livingstone becoming the official Labour party candidate for mayor of London. The contest for the Labour nomination was a farce. Although most London party members and trade unions voted for Livingstone, most London Labour MPs did not, and somebody else, Frank Dobson, has been chosen as the Labour candidate. But Ken has refused to give up. Since the demise of the GLC, he has become an MP and made frequent appearances on TV talk shows and panel games. The press now call him 'Cuddly Ken'. Following his 'defeat' in the Labour nomination contest, he has decided to stand as an independent candidate. Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that it would be a 'disaster' for London if he were elected and the party is busy digging up all the dirt about him that it can find. However, the latest polls suggest that Londoners resent the idea of a candidate being imposed on them by a party machine. In fact, they suggest that, when May comes, Ken will win.acrimonious: venijnig. cuddly: schattig. demise (hier): de opheffing, het einde. fringe (hier): alternatief, niet-relevant. loony left: extreem (en dus gek)-links. property tax: grondbelasting.