Ken Livingstone takes his election battle to Camden - but few hear his battle cries

PUBLISHED: 14:00 20 April 2012

London Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone speaks out against HS2 on a vist to Euston, pictured with GLA candidate Andrew Dismore and resident Fran Heron

London Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone speaks out against HS2 on a vist to Euston, pictured with GLA candidate Andrew Dismore and resident Fran Heron

Dieter Perry

It’s a busy weekday morning when Ken Livingstone’s election wagon rolls into Camden just a fortnight before London goes to the polls to elect the next mayor.

But as the Labour candidate walks into an Indian restaurant in Drummond Street, Euston, there is little of the excitement or fanfare you might expect of a race for London’s top job entering its final stages.

Few customers look up from their curries to steal a second glance at the one-time Labour Mayor as he sits down beside an assortment of Labour councillors, incumbent and hopeful, and a handful of residents.

The two-time London Mayor is well versed on local politics.

He nods encouragingly as a resident describes the controversial High Speed 2 (HS2) link that will see more than 200 homes most on the Regent’s Estate, in Camden, demolished, as a “land grab”.

Instead, Mr Livingstone promises he would set Transport for London onto the job of finding out if deep tunnels linking the rail route to existing lines and stations are a viable alternative.

He said: “If HS2 goes ahead I want to see if it can go underground so the hundreds of homes that currently might be lost, are saved.

“Putting the link underground is expensive but it is a lot less damaging than destroying a whole community.

“There is no way these people living in estates that will be demolished by HS2 would be able to afford to still live in the area.

“There is no way the government should demolish any housing which is still fit to live in.”

Popular stuff in a borough where Primrose Hill residents face years of disruption and hundreds of tenants in the south of the borough could be forced out of their homes, all in the name of high speed travel.

But as we weave through Euston’s streets, few get to hear what Ken Livingstone has to say about the rail link that has inspired such criticism.

The Mayoral hopeful makes a couple of pitstops at an assortment of restaurants and bakeries along the street, and makes an attempt to lighten the otherwise lacklustre mood by holding an African mask on display in a café up to his face.

But the initial murmurs of laughter soon died down and the wooden mask from the Ivory Coast was slotted back on the shelf.

It would be wrong to assume this lack of doorstep interest means Camden residents won’t vote for Mr Livingstone however.

As restaurateur Anthony Perez summed it up “I’ve always voted Labour, so did my parents before me. Ken could do anything and I would vote for him.”

His pledges to lower transport costs and put more police on the streets will prove popular in a borough where most people travel by Tube or bus, and there is anger about officer reductions in Kilburn and Camden Town.

But in a contest where the Tory incumbent is adept at the art of charm as politics, the lack momentum around Mr Livingstone’s campaign could harm his prospects.

Is the man who for so long defined London politics looking all too beatable?

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