Almost every single Standard headline for the last two months at least has been rabid anti-Ken propaganda. Ken is being bankrolled by some nasty bunch or other - tube drivers, Islamofascists, Mothers for Peace, etc. Ken is pissed on the job. Ken's advisers are communists. Ken eats live newts for tea. Ken is ten to fifteen points behind Boris Johnson on whatever bogus poll YouGov have made up next. And the BS goes on. And on. And on.
Now, I'm no slavish Ken supporter. Yep, I gave £50 to the 'purple' Mayor campaign of 2000 when he ran as an independent and kicked Frank Dobson's cuddly ass back to Camden. But I thought his decision to revert to Labour was a shame as it immediately meant he didn't have full latitude to denounce the many bullshit policies which the Treasury have saddled London with - Tube PPPs, anyone? - and that he would be vulnerable to being tarred with the same brush as an unpopular Blair (or now, Brown) Labour Government.
I was doubly worried by certain features of the Dispatches documentary screened on Channel 4 back in February. It was appallingly biased rubbish for sure, but there were certain legitimate criticisms. It's by no means a good idea for Livingstone to be drinking on the job, for example. (I know loads of MPs do the same, but no-one outside the Guido Fawkes blog and the Oliver Reed appreciation society would seriously endorse this kind of behaviour.) And Livingstone's decision to grant a platform to homophobic Islamic preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi was, as Peter Tatchell has pointed out, a disgrace.
But, on balance, who would you really rather have? Ken, who has made several mistakes but who may be the last serious left-wing politician left in any kind of major office in this country? Or Boris Johnson, who is either a flaky buffoon, a right-wing extremist, or (likely) both? It's a no-brainer.
If I were based in London my vote would be (1) Sian Berry (2) Ken and I think that, despite the increased discontent over the national government, he will prevail on Thursday. Forget the YouGov polls showing a 10 point lead (or more) for Boris - they're codswallop. I'm a YouGov panelist and I just enter complete garbage to get my 50p a survey. Literally, I enter complete random nonsense in the surveys. Also it's a self-selected sample - you actively apply to join YouGov, you're not approached by pollsters. Additionally, by definition, no-one without internet access is on the YouGov panel. So how the hell can it be representative?
YouGov are being used by the Evening Standard as part of an out-and-out war against Ken Livingstone. This kind of one-sided coverage presents the greatest danger to our free society (such as it is) since the Thatcherite media fascism of the 1980s. Really, during the elections the papers should have to follow a special rule: whenever a negative story is run on one of the mayoral candidates, the paper should have to allow an equal amount of space for reply by the mayoral candidate who is attacked in the story. Conversely, whenever a positive story is run on one of the mayoral candidates, the other mayoral candidates should get a right of reply equal in size to the original story. This rule could also be extended for General Elections. One way or another, rampant political propaganda and bias in our national newspapers has to be stamped out - whether it's pro-Tory, New Labour, or anything else. As Billy Bragg put it,
When you wake up to the fact that your paper is Tory
Just remember there are two sides to every story.