I went to the Stonewall Mayoral hustings this morning - an event I had been eagerly anticipating for weeks. It was refreshing to see a room full of gay and lesbian people who were actively interested in politics - and on all sides of the spectrum - in an age when apathy is rife and my apolitical friends tell me that no politician could do anything for them.
The candidates were true to form - with a few surprises thrown in. Each candidate spoke in the order in which they had accepted the invitation to the hustings.
Brian Paddick (Liberal Democrat) was first up, although touched on very little of what I would call 'policy'. He's actively exploiting his openly gay police officer status, and the accolade of having successfully sued both the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday. Paddick comes across as remarkably dull and not a particularly coherent speaker. A bit like a date you can't wait to get rid of.
Boris Johnson (Conservative) speaks at breakneck speed. He had been carefully coiffured for the occasion, the scruffy blonde mop being conspicuously absent. Boris' main argument seemed to me to be that he was a man who wanted merely to tinker with the successes of Ken's eight years as Mayor - not someone with radical new ideas, and worse, someone who couldn't be trusted to manage a city of eight million people. As the Beano candidate, Boris amused the audience with his posh, clumsy way, but got angry at one point, thumping his fist on the table when one questioner took him to task over the discrepancies between his stated positions on civil partnerships (the infamous 'two men and a dog' quote) and the fact that he had voted for the repeal of Section 28. This was a debate Boris' campaign advisers couldn't save him from.
Ken Livingstone (Labour) was the only candidate who not only successfully hit all the right LGBT buttons, but also the wider issues facing London - transport, climate change, affordable housing, and so on. As the current incumbent he has an inbuilt advantage, but he clearly understands that gay and lesbian citizens not only care about how much City Hall gives for the Pride march each year, but astonishingly - they want decent homes and a reliable tube service as well! With a pedigree of serving London which goes all the way back to the early seventies, and long-standing support of the LGBT community, Ken is the candidate with the broadest appeal - at least on paper.
Sian Berry (Green) was well informed on LGBT issues - she understood the frustration of the LGBT community on issues such as the promised LGBT museum, which the GLA had mooted back in 2004. For various reasons, this hadn't happened - and it was a slightly obscure point anyway, as most gay Londoners will be more concerned about bread and butter issues like policing and transport than cultural niceties, which although important, shouldn't be the things on which elections are won and lost.
I didn't have a particularly high opinion of Lindsay German (Left List) before today (she's a long standing member of the Socialist Workers' Party/Respect), but she comes across as a passionate speaker, especially on issues such as child poverty in London. Lindsey advocated Left List supporters voting for Ken as their second choice, although why they can't all vote for Ken, who's quite possibly the most powerful socialist in the country, is beyond me. Still, that's third-camp Trotskyism for you...