Sean Fear’s Friday slot – on Monday

Sean Fear’s Friday slot – on Monday


    A London activist’s view of the Boris and Ken show

Ken Livingstone said last week that Boris Johnson will provide him with the toughest challenge of his career, assuming the former is selected to run for Mayor of London, by the Conservatives. That is not quite correct. Fighting, and losing, Hampstead in 1979 must have been tougher, but there seems no doubt that he will face the hardest of his three campaigns for London Mayor.

The London Mayor is elected by a form of supplemental vote. In order to win, a candidate must get into the top two, on the first vote, and then attract a sufficient number of second preference votes to get elected. In 2004, Ken Livingstone showed an outstanding ability to do the former, winning a vote share of 35.7% of first preferences, compared to 28.2% for his main rival Steve Norris.

Significantly, he attracted around a third of his first round support from people who voted for parties other than Labour for the London Assembly. In every one of the London Assembly’s 14 constituencies, Livingstone outpolled the Labour vote, by margins ranging from 8% to 17%.

By contrast, in 9 out of 14 of the constituencies, Norris’s vote was less than that achieved by Conservative assembly candidates. Overall, nearly 14% of people who voted Conservative in the London Assembly voted for Livingstone. In addition, at least half of the people who voted Green in the Assembly also voted for Livingstone.

Although there was no great difference in the number of second preference votes that were won by either Livingstone or Norris, Livingstone’s commanding lead on the first round was enough to see him returned with a sizeable majority.

While Livingstone can probably be reasonably confident of retaining most Green voters, and a fair proportion of Respect voters, Johnson must stand a good chance of holding onto the Conservatives who voted for Livingstone. Although Johnson’s private life has been colourful, he has a very high profile, is a popular figure, and will not have his vote pulled down by an association with an unpopular company, Jarvis. Johnson is probably the favourite speaker at Conservative association functions, which suggests to me that there will be little if any slippage in his vote, compared to that of the Conservative Assembly candidates.

If Johnson were to retain that Conservative vote, then he could expect a similar share of the vote, 32-33%, to Livingstone’s on Round 1, implying a very close outcome.

So far, there has been only one properly conducted poll for the Mayoralty, for the Evening Standard, which gave Livingstone a 9% lead over Johnson, with both candidates far ahead of any other contender. However, the poll was conducted prior to Johnson announcing he was a candidate. A subsequent Yougov survey suggests a 6% lead for Johnson among London voters, although the sample was far too small to be reliable.

This is one contest where the outcome really is quite unpredictable.

There was only one by-election result last Thursday on Gosport BC, Town Ward.
Labour 480, Conservative 320, Lib Dem 200, Independent 71 English Democrats 50
Green 31. This was a Labour hold with a much-reduced majority.

Sean Fear

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