Universe Column May 23rd 2004
By David Alton
One of the most interesting election contests that will take place next month will be the London mayoral election. Although my family home is in Lancashire I have to keep a small flat in London and this gives me a vote – which makes up for being denied a vote at General Elections. Members of the House of Lords – along with convicts and lunatics – are disqualified from voting in a General Election. Maybe there’s some rough justice in that.
Four years ago, when Ken Livingstone was elected, I voted for Ram Gidoomal – a wonderful Asian who has always taken a strong stand on issues of social justice and pro life issues. Without hesitation I will be voting for him again. Why? Because while the others offer political correctness he offers political courage.
Too often politics is bogged down in tradition – the party-line rhetoric is all too familiar as elections approach and battle-lines are drawn. Independent candidates do stand, but they often represent highly individual agendas, are inexperienced in politics and have no track record to inspire confidence.
That’s why I was excited when Ram Gidoomal stood in the 2000 London Mayoral election as candidate for a small party in the Christian Democratic tradition, the Christian Peoples Alliance. He was a breath of fresh air in London politics.
Ram is vastly experienced in government think tanks, advisory committees and other bodies set up by government, but he came with no party tags. His manifesto was a mixture of solid realism and quite visionary radical perspectives – the Evening Standard said “His policies for the carless, jobless and homeless” made him more radical than Labour. Quite a recommendation. He understood that London needs the guidance of an experienced businessman, and as somebody who had run a multi-national corporation in 15 countries, employing 7,000 people worldwide, he had that experience; but having been involved in such key business agencies as Business Link and the Better Regulation Task Force for many years, he also had the confidence of a wide range of London’s businesses.
He is, of course, a member of the South Asian community, and has numerous British and international business and also charitable links with the ethnic communities who comprise almost a third of London’s residents. Few understand the ethnic communities so well or appreciate so clearly the contribution that they make to the larger economy.
For those reasons alone I would have supported Ram’s candidacy. But there is another dimension to his work and another reason why I voted for Ram Gidoomal in 2000. He is a Christian who has the confidence of the major faith communities, and is an uncompromising advocate in such difficult issues as the pro-life debate. He has always been strongly articulate against abortion, and has come up with some creative ideas to promote pro-life counselling services in London and challenge the treatment of older people.
I wouldn’t blindly vote for any candidate who calls themselves Christian but when one does it’s at least worth finding out whether they match the rhetoric with reality.
In 2000 Ram won votes from almost 100,000 people, a remarkable achievement for somebody unknown to many voters making his first electoral bid. In fact, he qualified for a seat on the London Assembly, but was prevented from taking it by a threshold requirement introduced, ironically, to prevent groups like the BNP gaining power. Today the Assembly, with one black member and no Asians, and dominated by the mainstream parties, is woefully unrepresentative of London’s diversity.
Ram is standing again this year. He will have my support and I hope he will have yours too. Some view what happens in Ken Livingstone’s world as parochial. But where London leads, the rest of the country follows. Because of Proportional Representation, a vote for Ram was never a wasted vote or at best a protest vote. This time he has an excellent chance of getting an Assembly seat – he needs just over 1 per cent more to get the 5% it takes. Of course if enough people vote for him he will become Mayor, and I believe that he will be an excellent Mayor of London, able to represent the whole spectrum of London’s population and having a businessman’s eye for accountability and preventing waste of assets and resources.
Ram arrived in London in 1967 as a refugee. Today his work in the public, voluntary and charitable sectors brings him into daily contact with movers and shakers. But I will vote for him because it will be a vote for the unborn and the terminally ill facing euthanasia – people no other London candidate will speak for – and it will be a vote for the refugees – whom he uniquely understands — and it will be a vote for the diversity that is London. St. Paul proudly proclaimed that he was “a citizen of no mean city.” Ram Gidoomal feels that way about London and its people and that’s why he’ll carry my cross.