IF ANY of the places holding a referendum on whether to have a directly elected mayor votes in favour of the concept, it is to be hoped that they have more luck than London. Ken Livingstone has been a dismal disappointment in his first year-and-a-half in office.
One of the best reasons for electing him was that he would speak up for the interests of the people who live and work in the capital. His wit and easy chat-show manner should have ensured that he would be on our television screens whenever the interests of Londoners were engaged in national affairs - which has been often. Instead, he has been curiously invisible.
When the foot-and-mouth outbreak was at its height, and London's tourist industry was suffering unnoticed while attention focused on rural Britain, where was Ken? When another world city, New York, was hit by suicide terrorist attacks, and Londoners might have looked to their equivalent of Rudolph Giuliani for leadership, where was Ken?
The foreign tourists who had not been put off by the vision of a nation in cattle-sickness quarantine are now staying away because of the threat of terrorist attacks. While businesses dependent on tourism and many of the City's financial services companies are hurting, where is Ken? Nowhere to be seen, although he belatedly set up a task force yesterday to "address the tourism crisis". If people are worried that London or its Tube network might be a terrorist target, they must turn to Nick Raynsford, a government minister, who has taken over the planning for a civil emergency.
If the Mayor can be tracked down, he equivocates, shrugs his shoulders and passes the buck. He could not even bring himself to condemn Tube drivers when they threatened to strike last week for a large pay claim.
We wonder whether Frank Dobson, the forgotten former cabinet minister, …