KEN LIVINGSTONE may tell us about the Olympics, the Oyster card and the miracle on the buses. He may tell us of the success of the Congestion Charge, the ever declining crime rate and the transformation of London. I want to tell him about my journey to work.
The train to London Bridge, which takes eight minutes off-peak, spent about 20 minutes inching forward, waiting in a long queue of its fellow trains for one of the station's magnificent three through- train platforms to become free. When I finally got there, there was a nasty argument with a penalty-fares Nazi before I was allowed past the barrier.
In the Underground, I joined a huge crowd kept penned in the ticket hall until enough space cleared on the platform.
When I got down, there were seven minutes until the next train at 8.30am. I had to let two go past, too full to cram into. All the time, TfL loudspeakers hectored us with peremptory orders and bossy announcements, exactly the Orwellian soundtrack that Sixties science fiction films predicted would be in place by now.
At King's Cross, the new, improved interchange with Thameslink is actually about twice as far from the Underground platforms as the old one, a 15-minute walk with almost no signposting, two sets of ticket barriers, four escalators, and a flight of steps.
As the Mayoral election campaign really kicks off, and as I stood there in my crowd being harangued, Ken Livingstone's first words in last week's opening TV debate went through my mind.
"If you don't believe London's improved over the last eight years, then you shouldn't vote for me," said Mr Livingstone.
Well, Ken, coming back from bike to Tube after 18 months away, even if only for a week, I was struck by how much more crowded the system has become and how little has been done to keep pace. I don't believe the Tube has improved, and I don't know anyone who does, apart perhaps from the manufacturers of shiny new wall tiles..
Congestion hasn't improved. In central London, it did improve, after the arrival of the Congestion Charge, but now it is back to pre-charge levels. In the rest of London, it never stopped getting worse.
The housing crisis hasn't improved.
The number of affordable homes in London is actually fewer now than it was when Mr Livingstone took office.
We hear much of his famous target that 50 per cent of new developments should be affordable almost never achieved, incidentally.
We hear rather less of something far more important, the actual number of affordable houses built. The fact is that every year of his term until last year, extraordinarily, Mr Livingstone achieved fewer affordable home completions 'By claiming credit for in London than the Tories under John Major.
Labour's arrival in power was marked by the collapse of social house-building.
Although the number of new affordable homes is now rising again, it is still nowhere near enough to make up for the loss of council properties under rightto-buy. In Mr Livingstone's time, the council- house waiting list has roughly doubled..
The transport infrastruture hasn't improved. In their last 10 years, the horrible, evil Tories approved Thameslink, the Docklands Light Railway, the Jubilee line extension, the Heathrow Express, the DLR extensions to Bank, Beckton and Lewisham, the Croydon Tramlink and suburban electrifications to Hastings, Peterborough and King's Lynn. …