Can Ken withstand the media barrage?

Can Ken withstand the media barrage?

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    Is winning a third term starting to look doubtful?

If you want proof that May’s fight for the London Mayoralty might not be the foregone conclusion that the betting markets currently suggest then do what I did last night – go to Google News and input the words “Ken Livingstone”.

The top few results are featured in the screen shot above – and just looking down the list you can see that he might be in some trouble. What’s particularly poignant is that the media references come from a much broader range of sources than just the Evening Standard with whom the Mayor has been involved in a long war of attrition.

Yesterday the normally Labour-friendly Observer ran a leader under the heading “Face your critics, Mr Livingstone”. It said: “He and his policy advisers have been accused of using taxpayers’ money to rubbish the mayor’s enemies; of failing to scrutinise the spending of hundreds of thousands of pounds of money earmarked for regeneration and of using City Hall staff and offices for political fundraising, a breach of electoral guidelines. The mayor’s response has been to issue denials and to claim he is the victim of a smear campaign. But this defence seems clumsy, given the evidence in the public domain that indicates a serious examination of many of the allegations is merited.”

Tonight there’s a Channel 4 programme in the Dispatches series which, amongst other things – “….accuses Mr Livingstone of “astonishing and shocking” drinking habits and being “a law unto himself”.

The electoral challenge he’s got is that even in Labour’s good times he has to rely for victory on supporters of other parties. Looking at how the capital voted in 2004 for the mayor and the London Authority it’s clear that one in four Lib Dems and one in six Tory supporters split their ticket in the Mayoral ballot. Will that happen to the same extent in May? I doubt it particularly as the manner in which he operates is becoming THE issue.

This will be the UK’s biggest political betting market of 2008 and last week I suggested that at the then nearly 2-1 that Boris Johnson was the value bet. If the media barrage does not stop then the next poll might have Livingstone behind. That’s what I’m betting on. I think that there’s an increasing chance that Ken won’t do it.

Mike Smithson

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