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We will not allow Ken to forget his post office pledge

PUBLISHED: 11:35 03 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:55 07 September 2010

MAYOR Ken Livingstone had better not be guilty of blatant electioneering with his pledge to save London s threatened post offices if re-elected. In an interview with the Ham&High Series, he sets out a timetable, at the end of which City Hall would subsidi

MAYOR Ken Livingstone had better not be guilty of blatant electioneering with his pledge to save London's threatened post offices if re-elected. In an interview with the Ham&High Series, he sets out a timetable, at the end of which City Hall would subsidise branches if all else fail.

His specific promise is that he will bankroll all 171 London post offices facing closure, including all those our readers have been campaigning so vigorously to save.

This is of course easy to say but much more difficult to deliver and Post Office Ltd might have something to say about it all.

Would they be willing to allow the mayor's office to become a business partner in the running of London's post offices? The legalities, protocols and lines of responsibilities could be a minefield, but no more complicated than some of the other areas where the mayor's office has assumed varying degrees of responsibility.

At face value, such a pledge by an existing mayor to intervene so emphatically, is a very significant development. It could represent considerable new public investment on a generic scale in a private company, and the financial underwriting of dozens of branches would be a huge financial commitment.

On the positive side, the mayor has a track record of delivering on issues that he feels strongly about, the Congestion Charge being among the most notable. On the negative side, he is in trouble as far as the opinion polls show - and he is not averse to the occasional stunt when he is in difficulties.

The recent behaviour of local Labour MPs, who aligned themselves to public campaigns to save branches in this area and then refused to vote against the government when it came to the crunch, also adds to the public perception that the post offices are ripe for cynical exploitation for purely political reasons.

The mayor's opponents will also point to the timing of his statement, though it is not his fault that the post office debate has entered a crucial stage just as the fight for City Hall begins to register on the public's radar.

What the mayor must know, however, is that people care very deeply and very genuinely about this issue. They are passionate about saving their local branches and have turned out time after time in all kinds of weather to demonstrate the depth of their feelings. If Mr Livingstone succeeds in winning a third term, we will be here to remind him of his promise. His pledge is one neither this newspaper - nor its readers - will allow him to forget.

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