For instance, when Ken Livingstone was standing at a previous election, he promised that he would legalise gay marriage. Personally, as I've said before, I support gay marriage. However, that's a decision which has to be taken at national level: you can't have a marriage which is only recognised within the M25. So, he was making a promise that he couldn't possibly keep.
Looking at the London Elects website, they have a booklet with a mini-manifesto for 10 of the candidates/parties. Apparently it costs £10,000 to be listed there, which seems a bit steep to me; I assume that's on top of the £10,000 that it already costs just to be nominated as a candidate. Also, there are no videos there unless you go hunting on YouTube: I think that it should be handled like Eurovision, where the organisers have their own official channel to keep all of the videos in one place.
Anyway, 3 of the parties (BNP, Britain First, and UKIP) all say that they will stop immigration. This has the same problem as Ken Livingstone's pledge, albeit at the other end of the political spectrum: the London Mayor doesn't set national policy! So, even if you completely agree with them, it's not a good reason to vote for them. Britain First also say that they will "Get Britain out of the EU superstate". Again, that's beyond the authority of the London Mayor, and we're having a separate referendum about that anyway.
On the other hand, if you disagree with a party's national views, that might not be a problem at local level. For instance, Jeremy Corbyn has said that he wants to scrap Trident and the Green party want to disband the army. However, the mini-manifestos for those parties don't mention defence policy at all; that makes sense, because it's not the Mayor's decision. So, even if you wouldn't want Labour running the country, you might still think that Sadiq Khan is the right choice for London Mayor.
One of the other mini-manifestos comes from CISTA (Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol). Looking at the candidate's website, it's clear that he really is a single-issue candidate. That's not necessarily a bad thing; I backed Rosalind Readhead's campaign for a car free London, on the basis that this would get people talking about the issues. However, I assume that cannabis laws are another national issue, so again it's outside the Mayor's scope.
Unsurprisingly, my main concern (at local level) is cycling. The 4 parties with national agendas don't mention this at all, so that leaves 6 mini-manifestos. What do they have to say on this topic?
- Women's Equality Party: "I will invest in cycle facilities so we cut down on car journeys and improve air quality."
- Conservatives: "Tackling air pollution with tougher rules on HGVs, and encouraging greener vehicles and safer cycling."
- London Liberal Democrats: nothing.
- Respect: nothing specifically about cycling, but "Heavy vehicles will be banned from inner-London in daylight hours."
- Labour: "Taking real action to cut pollution and make cycling safer."
- Green: nothing.
I have to say, I'm quite surprised at the silence from the Green party on this issue!
Meanwhile, The Guardian interviewed five of the candidates for their Bike blog: Who's the most cycling-friendly London mayoral candidate? Their summary was:
- Green: 10/10
- LibDem: 9/10
- Labour: 6/10
- Conservative: 4/10
- UKIP: 1/10
Obviously those scores are subjective, but it's interesting that the highest rankings went to the parties who didn't mention cycling at all in their mini-manifestos.
Unlike national elections (for MPs), we can list two candidates in the London Mayor election. This is similar to the AV system which was proposed in 2011, although we can't list all the candidates in order of preference. (I wrote about AV before and after the referendum.) So, even if you think that Conservatives and Labour are the only parties with a plausible chance of winning, you can still vote for one of the other parties as your first choice; once they get knocked out, your second choice would be your "real" vote.
Right now, my plan is to vote Green as my first choice, but I honestly don't know about my second choice. After the Conservatives blatantly lied during the AV referendum, I said that I would never vote for them again, and I disagree with a lot of their national policies (e.g. I side with the junior doctors against Jeremy Hunt). Similarly, I gave up on voting LibDem at national level after they reneged on their promise about tuition fees. However, I'm trying to focus on local policies here, so I ought to consider them again. So, I'll do a bit more reading over the next two weeks to see if anything inspiring stands out.