A week on from the London Mayoral Election and our abortive call you cannot but admire what an extraordinary politician Ken Livingstone is.
Looking at the results again the striking feature is that more than a third of all those who gave Ken their first preference did not vote Labour in the London Assembly election at the same time. They were voting for the man and not the party.
To work out why all you have to do is get on a London bus.
While all the media focus has been on the congestion charge it’s easy to ignore the transport revolution that’s having a huge impact on Londoners – the transformation of London bus services that have become cheaper, faster, more comfortable, more regular and much more convenient to use. This is being funded by the planned revenue from the charge and Ken has been getting the credit.
New fast services, the new comfortable “Bendy Buses” and a whole new approach to ticketing and bus infrastucture have boosted bus usage to upto 6 million trips a day – an increase of 31% since Ken was first elected.
Achieving this has cost an enormous amount and many in the Capital believe that London is better for it. Ken is popular because many believe he’s made the capital a better place to be – and we misjudged the impact.
All our thinking had been based on the view that Tories and Lib Dems would find it much harder to vote for Ken as Labour candidate than as in 2000 when he stood as an independent. In the end almost the same proportion of Tories who went with Ken last time made the same mayoral choice this time. .
But the level of voters switching party for Mayor has left Ken with an enormous headache as he seeks to lead London. The part of our call that proved to be 100% accurate was the huge increase for the Tories in the Assembly election. This has now elected a Tory chairman , who is very pro-motorist, and Ken has got some battles ahead.