My Labour opponent, Gerry Ryan, was outside East Croydon station this morning handing out a London-wide Labour newspaper which focuses on increases in bus and Tube fares.
One of the reasons most people have such a low opinion of politicians at the moment is their reliance on spin, always trying to portray themselves in the best possible light or their opponents in the worst possible light rather than being honest with people. This newspaper is a classic example.
The first paragraph of the main story claims, "The biggest fare increases in Transport for London's history are being forced on millions of hard-pressed bus and Tube users by Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson".
This is demonstrably not true.
It is true that the fares for single bus and Tube journeys are being increased significantly (I will explain why later) but with Travelcard prices frozen (great news for outer London commuters) and pensioners and children entitled to free travel on some or all public transport, most people will not see any increase in their fares. Now that we can use Oyster cards on rail services, some people will actually see a reduction.
Average bus fares will increase by 12.7% and average Tube fares by 3.9%. This is no more than the increases in 2005 and 2006 under Labour Mayor Ken Livingstone when bus and Tube fares increased by 12.7 per cent and 4 per cent, and then by 12.9 per cent and 3.9 per cent respectively.
So why the increases in fares for single journeys? The subsidy to London's buses has risen from £24 million in 2000 to £602 million this year. This rate of increase is self-evidently unsustainable. So Boris has planned a programme of efficiency savings and some fare increases (but protecting pensioners, children, the least well-off and Travelcard users). The latter may not be popular - let's face it, no-one likes paying more - but if Gerry and his Labour colleagues are opposed to them how would they balance the budget? What is depressing about this newspaper is that it doesn't contain one word about what Labour's alternative proposals would be.